Images, Sketches, Ideas for our production of A Little Night Music upcoming at the Shaw Festival

The musical is inspired by Ingmar Berman 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night, itself based on a play by Marivaux.

Send in the Clowns

Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.

Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can't move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Just when I'd stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours,
Making my entrance again with my usual flair,
Sure of my lines,
No one is there.

Don't you love farce?
My fault I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don't bother, they're here.

Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer,
Losing my timing this late
In my career?
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Well, maybe next year.

The beautiful and talented Goldie Semple plays Desiree; Morris and Ken first worked with Goldie in 1979 in Spokesong at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria; Morris acted opposite her, and Ken designed the costumes.

Little Ken sketch; probably done on a napkin. The idea is to create a bank of birch trees separating the action from the orchestra, and turning the proscenium into a box of leaves. Everything is blue.

Birch trees are a central image in Scandinavian culture and represent fertility; think about that next time you buy an Ikea bookshelf.

Midsummer Night is a magical time; and a popular subject for stories, from ancient folklore to Shakespeare; the sexual aspect of Midsummer ritual has become somewhat muted over time. But sex is forever powerful and mysterious

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George Masswohl, who plays Fredrik Egerman, first worked with us in the title of role of Sweeney Todd in Vancouver and in Toronto; a terrific actor and singer, you can visit his own website at

to check out his other considerable accomplishments.

Karsh photo of Stephen Sondheim; everything you ever need to know about this remarkable artist can be found at

Listen to original soundtrack recording of Overture, from the 1973 Broadway cast recording; this album was a Grammy winner for Best Original Show Cast Album

Below, technical drawings for trees and birch leaf proscenium sent to Ken in a PDF format from his assistant Ken MacKenzie; email has irrevocably changed the way technical information is passed from one department or person to another; the renderings are more precise, and can be readily copied and altered. What they lack in TLC they make up for in CAD

In a Craig Zadan biography of Sondheim, the composer says he wrote this song in one evening, during rehearsals; unimportant in the context of creativity, but an interesting insight into the methodology - apparently Sondheim is a terrible procrastinator, who can suddenly turn on the creative switch; here, the two lovers, Desiree and Fredrik, sing about their bad timing

Sondheim wanted the musical to be more Stringberg; the first songs he wrote were much darker in tone

August Strindberg

Guests arrive at the Armfeldt house, expected or not, by automobile; you will not be seeing any of these onstage in our production - but you might be hearing one or two. In the Courthouse Theatre there is barely enough room for the orchestra, let alone a car. Sound can sometimes create as much atmosphere as visuals. The idea of doing such a large musical in such a small space is what attracted us to the project. But Paul Sportelli, our musical director, has his work cut out for him.

Birch branch (ficus) detail, sent by Dona Hrabluk, head of props; this foliage is available for purchase and will be used for our leaf proscenium. The company who makes these is Autograph Foliages, in Cleveland Ohio. The company has 270 dozen of these in stock; we will buy them all - but its still not enough.

Musical director Paul Sportelli is going to have to figure out how to make six instruments sound like thirty. We wanted to do an intimate production where the music was the focus.

Musical director Paul Sportelli

Speaking of clowns; Valerie Moore is our choreographer for the production. We first worked with her in 1986, in a production of Pal Joey for the Tarragon Theatre. Ken did the set and Morris played Joey; Valerie helped us last year with the tango moves in Hotel Peccadillo. She makes us laugh a lot; but in a good way.

Valerie Moore

Thom Allison plays Count Carl Magnus; Thom was in our production of Take Me Out at Canadian Stage; he has his own website

Click here to check out the rest of our fantastic cast and creative team

Kens leaf motif for the proscenium, as suggested by this colour rendering

From the Shaw props department, Dona Hrabluk writes in an email = Jen thought we should send you what we are working on anyway. I think she is blue happy. We are using whatever blues we have here. So there is a couple of sprays on camo net. The camo net (camoflauge netting)which looks better in real life, a small sample of camo net & more sprays not the right colour) and the happy leavers. I let you know when we the samples come in and what we find in flowerland - Dona

Floor pattern design; with shows at the Courthouse the floor becomes very important, since it the one thing everybody sees the most.

Shaw props department wood nymphs display leaves for proscenium

Little Night Music will be presented in the Courthouse Theatre, which has a thrust stage. This is a challenging musical to stage in this arrangement, because of the many different locations. The script calls for a lot of screens and probably assumes flats will fly in and out of position. In the Courthouse there is no fly gallery; everything onstage is either there from the beginning or brought on by crew or actors. In this case, owing to a production concept, the Liebeslieders (our chorus) will make these scene changes as part of the ongoing story. Click on the boxes below to view profiles of our fantastic Liebeslieders

The diagram on the right is an example of a thrust stage; the audience surrounds the action on three sides

Design Day at the Courthouse which means the set is assembled in the space and the designer gives his comments to the props and set departments

Upper left, the painted geometric floor pattern, upper right, most of the props and set pieces assembled; lower right a perspective on the theatre space and lower left, Ken with a broken arm; from an accident involving himself two bicycles, and Morris.


Second day of rehearsal; with all our work still ahead of us.