The oh-so-civilized Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical A Little Night Music
concerns Desiree Armfeldt, an aging Swedish stage star who suddenly finds her oh-so-complacent life under assault at the nubile hands of youth. This is not merely the stuff of musical theater; this is a problem that all actresses must confront as their careers mature. Ely, who of late has found herself relegated to too many supporting-mother parts (she was a wonderfully darling mom in the Muny's Peter Pan
), knows that resonant adult roles like Desiree are the splendid exception, and she made the most of it. In Stages St. Louis' production of Night Music
, not only did Ely deliver a pitch-perfect reading of the dialogue, but she understood the heartbreaking rue of Desiree. A piercing sadness emanated from her very being.