One of my favourite songs is ‘Send in the Clowns’ from Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 musical A Little Night Music. I’m not sure why I like it – the haunting melody, the lyrics or maybe as a political cartoonist it’s simply metaphorical. Sondheim that it was about fools and foolishness.
It’s the show’s big number – a ballad from Act II in which the character Desiree reflects on the ironies and disappointments of her life after her marriage proposal is declined. The song became a major pop hit when first Judy Collins recorded it in England, then Frank Sinatra heard it and also recorded it. It won the Grammy in 1976 for Song of the Year. Since then it seems that every person who sings has recorded it, including Barbra Streisand, Shirley Bassey, Olivia Newton-John, Elaine Paige…. even Krusty the Clown of The Simpsons.
Sir Trevor Nunn’s 2009 production – the third London revival – started life at the Menier Chocolate Factory before transferring to the Garrick Theatre. The wonderful Hannah Waddingham played Desiree, the touring thesp, self-absorbed, once-successful actress who rekindles her love affair with a benign middle aged lawyer, now married to an 18 year old.
Kelly Price played Charlotte, the tolerant wife of Desiree’s lover Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm. Both ewere nominated for Olivier Awards. Getting this sketch signed was a bit of a mission. I eventually caught up with Kelly after a performance of The Misanthrope at the Comedy Theatre in March 2010 and Hannah signed in August at the Regent’s Park Open Theatre where she was appearing in Into The Woods.