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Sondheim's A Little Night Music Gets a Queer Twist

Sondheim's A Little Night Music Gets a Queer Twist

Amanda Kruger and Ty Deran
From left: Amanda Kruger and Ty Deran photographed by Bryan Carpender

A new production casts the classic show with mostly female-presenting actors, including trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming performers.


One of the late Stephen Sondheim's most beloved shows, A Little Night Music, is getting a new production in Los Angeles, with a queer twist.

The tale of love, lust, and jealousy, set in 1901 Sweden, revolves around actress Desiree Armfeldt and her lovers, past and present: lawyer Fredrik Egerman and Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, respectively. Both Egerman and the count are married, and they, their wives, and assorted others agree to spend a weekend at Desiree's mother's estate. As one might expect, complications ensue.

With music and lyrics by Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler (inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night), and direction by frequent Sondheim collaborator Harold Prince, the show was a huge success of Broadway in 1973-1974, running for 601 performances and winning six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score -- a score that features one of Sondheim's best-known songs, "Send in the Clowns." It has since been staged all over the world, and it was revived on Broadway in 2009. But the L.A. production, opening Friday at Greenway Court Theatre, adds some new flavor to this delectable, bittersweet confection.

"A Little Night Music is considered one of Stephen Sondheim's biggest triumphs and, like the majority of Sondheim's material, was written with little to no queer representation despite [his] being one of the most prolific queer artists the world has ever known," says Ryan O'Connor, the Los Angeles stage veteran who is directing the production. O'Connor, who is queer and gender-nonconforming, aims to change that representation.

"This production of this classic musical examines the themes of romance, lust, manipulation, class, and gender by utilizing a cast of predominantly female-presenting actors, giving the show an often alluded to but now outward lesbian subtext, and also a cast of gender-nonconforming/trans/nonbinary artists who finally get to take up the theatrical space they deserve," O'Connor says.

Those artists include Ty Deran, a transgender and nonbinary actor who plays Fredrik's virginal young wife, Anne. "Since I was a young child, I have been told that my femininity would get in the way of me finding success in the entertainment industry," says Deran, who uses she/they pronouns. "What was once a playground for my self-expression quickly became a business asking me to conform for profit. But requiring an artist to conform strips them of their perspective ... and an artist is nothing without a perspective."

Ty Deran and Sarah Wolter

From left: Ty Deran and Sarah Wolter photographed by Bryan Carpender

"I had to step away from theatre in order to reinvest in my truth. I fell so deep into the image of a 'workable actor' -- an image that fell parallel to the expectations society placed upon me -- that I lost sense of who I am," Deran continues. "I lost the sense of freedom and euphoria that drew me to theater in the first place. And now that I have reclaimed my truth and reconnected with my perspective, I want to tell stories that allow me to bring my full self to my work."

Another nonbinary performer, Amanda Kruger, appears as Henrik, Fredrik's son from a previous marriage. "As a nonbinary queer actor, so often I am iced out of experiences that I fully understand and am drawn to because the written gender of a character doesn't correlate with how I am perceived based on my voice or body ... nor do many folks even understand the liminal gender space I inhabit, which leads to the persistent disclaimer 'we don't know where to put you,'" Kruger says.

"It has been liberating and affirming to finally have the opportunity to access a character I so fully feel akin to and have gender swept aside," they add. "It is my firm belief that adhering to the gender binary in creative work has been building a wall to uncovering deeper essences of characters both classic and new. What Ryan has done is essentially see beyond this very well-established barrier and subsequently crack open these characters to uncover their deepest secrets and innermost truths. In a time when the power players from the era of musical theater I grew up with are openly declaring my existence and participation in art to be nothing more than a joke, having this opportunity to show them just how wrong they are is powerful and euphoric."

Alexa Rosengaus and Amanda Kruger

From left: Alexa Rosengaus and Amanda Kruger photographed by Bryan Carpender

Deran notes, "Theater has always been a place where stories of 'otherness' are brought to life. Theater is -- in its essence -- an art form that thrives in nonconformity. I hope that the queer, trans and nonbinary representation in A Little Night Music will prove to the industry that we can and should cast folks based on the quality of their spirit, not just their physical qualifiers. And I hope that young queer folks will come see this show and realize that they too can bring their full selves to their work ... and to the world."

O'Connor concludes, "I am a Sondehim die-hard, through and through. His music saved my queer youth from isolation and despair. Telling this story with an added queer focus is a way of giving back to the legend who made me feel seen and bridging the distance between the classic musical theater and the people of 2022 who are ready to bring it to life all over again for new audiences."

A Little Night Music, presented by Knot Free Productions in association with Greenway Arts Alliance and Theatre Planners, will run at Greenway Court through March 13. Find tickets and more information at

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.
Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.