Wordplay, romance, longing, and infidelity meet in Lamplighters Music Theatre‘s next production of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. It’s an adaptation of the film Smiles of a Summer Night, the 1955 Ingmar Bergman comedy of mismatched lovers. Artistic Director Dennis Lickteig directs the production, which will play in weekend performances in San Francisco, before heading to Walnut Creek and Mountain View.

There’s more information at the Lamplighters website.

After a couple of artistic successes but commercial flops, Stephen Sondheim needed a hit. He was going to write the music and lyrics for his next project with book writer Hugh Wheeler (with whom he’d later go on to write Sweeney Todd), and wanted to go in the direction of an operetta. There was a play by Jean Anouilh called Ring Around the Moon that they were interested in, but he didn’t want the play to be adapted into a musical, and refused to give them the rights. “Their second choice was Smiles of a Summer Night, the Bergman film,” Lickteig says. “He was a little bit more willing to consider the idea, and after talking to them, he said ‘Go ahead, just don’t use the title of the film as the title’… He apparently came and saw previews in Boston and thoroughly loved it. He said ‘It’s the same story, but a different show.’” As in the Gilbert and Sullivan works that the Lamplighters are known for, there’s clever wordplay, misunderstandings and unrequited love, but also adultery and disappointment. “Brilliant script, it’s one of my favorite musical scripts because it’s so witty and intellectual at the same time. He writes real people, which is really nice. They’re fully fleshed out, flawed people, which in a musical you don’t really find very often.” And both the book and the music are more complex than most musical theater. “Sondheim’s a puzzle master himself, and he loves intricacies in his work. And he always has a lot more going on under the surface than some people realize at first. The interesting thing about this play, it’s about three different love triangles, and when he made that discovery with the plot, he decided to do it all in variations of a waltz tempo.”