Show History



A Little Night Music is inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night. One of the films that brought Bergman international success, Stephen Sondheim was interested in musicalizing the story of changing partners.

The title is an English translation of the German name for Mozart's Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major (Eine kleine Nachtmusik). Sondheim paid homage to the music of Maurice Ravel in his compositions; Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales shares the same opening chords as the song "Liaisons" from the musical. He has used musical elements like 3/4 time and other waltz times along with counterpoint to create a complicated, harmonically-advanced musical style.


A Little Night Music, with book by Hugh Wheeler and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, opened at the Shubert Theater on Broadway on February 25, 1973. The production was directed by reputed Broadway director Harold Prince and starred Glynis Johns, Len Cariou, and Hermione Gingold. It closed on August 3, 1974 after 601 performances. Shortly before, on February 26 of that year, a national tour started; it ended on February 13, 1975 with a performance at the Shubert Theater.

The musical premiered on the West End on April 15, 1975, starring Jean Simmons, Joss Ackland, and Liz Robertson, with Hermione Gingold reprising her role from Broadway. It ran for over 400 performances. In London, the musical has faced a significant amount of revivals: one opened at the Piccadilly Theatre, running from October 6, 1989 to February 17, 1990; another from the Royal National Theatre opened at the Olivier Theatre on September 26, 1995 and closed on August 31, 1996.

A third London revival ran at the Menier Chocolate Factory on November 22, 2008. Its popularity helped it transfer to the Garrick Theatre on the West End on March 28, 2009, running until July 25th. The production then transferred to Broadway with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury appearing. The Broadway revival ran from December 13, 2009 to January 9, 2011.

The musical has also enjoyed significant success in Europe with productions from Stockholm to Paris. A Little Night Music is an extremely popular selection for opera companies, as well. Michigan Opera Theatre was the first opera company to produce the show in 1982, and opera houses from the New York City Opera to Opera Australia have produced it since.

Cultural Influence

  • A film adaptation was released in 1977. It was directed by Harold Prince and starred Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Rigg, and Lesley-Anne Down.
  • "Send in the Clowns" has become the most popular song from the musical, and one of Sondheim's biggest hit songs. It gained most of its popularity from Frank Sinatra's cover in 1973 and Judy Collins' version in 1975, which garnered a Grammy for the performance.
  • The musical has been parodied in television series episodes of both The Simpsons and Newhart.


  • Dubbed by many as the waltz musical, all of the songs in A Little Night Music are written in variations of three-quarter time.
  • Recorded hundreds of times, Stephen Sondheim's most popular success, "Send In The Clowns" was written overnight while A Little Night Music was in out-of-town tryouts.