Highly Recommended **** My regular readers are aware that to me, Stephen Sondheim is the most magical wordsmith in his amazingly clever musicals. One of my all-time favorites, filled with songs that I absolutely adore is “Company” with a book by George Furth. Unlike most of his works, this particular musical is more of a “chamber piece”. No fancy sets, but a clever stage area designed by Todd Rosenthal allowing the intimacy of the story to be seen from every angle in the beautiful Nichols Theatre at Writers in Glencoe.Directed by William Brown, who is more known for straight plays than musicals, we have a diverse cast to bring this wonderful story to life.
The story is about Bobby (Thom Miller does an amazing job with this demanding role), who is turning 35 and in his crowd, is the only remaining person who is single. It is not that he isn’t trying to find that special person so he can join his friends and be “just like them”, it is just that all the opportunities pass him by. All of the couple that surround his life are unique and different and what this play does is explore relationships themselves. Is marriage for everyone? What is the meaning of life? Can one person live on their own and survive in a world that is “coupled”?
What an ensemble! Sarah (Alexis J. Rogers) and her hubby Harry (deftly handled by James Earl Jones II) are a stitch, showing a couple that has arguing down to a science. They do a wrestling match to “The Little Things We Do Together” that will have you laughing your A _ _ off!. Susan (adorable Tiffany Scott) and her hubby, Peter ( another smooth performance by Gabriel Ruiz) appear to be happy, but we later find out that while they are madly in love with each other, they might be better off unmarried. More couples are : Jenny ( Blair Robertson, who does a zany “high” scene) and her solid hubby, David ( Patrick Martin), probably the most realistic of all the couples depicted in this show, Amy ( Allison Hendrix, who will knock your sox off when she does “Getting Married Today” one of Sondheim’s true tongue twisting numbers- she ROCKS!) and her fiancée , Paul (Bernard Balbot) and Joanne (the sultry and sexy Lia Mortensen) and her hubby Larry (well- played by Patrick Sarb). We get to watch these couples, with their ins and outs as Bobby thinks out his position. Or does he?
The three ladies that are in his life are April, a flight attendant (played to perfection by Jess Godwin), Kathy (Chelsea Morgan who is ready to marry, NOW) and Marta (Christine Mild who does a superb job with one of my favorite numbers “Another Hundred People”. The music in this show may be very familiar. Songs like “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” sung by this trio of “dates”, “Side By Side” where Bobby alludes to the fact that he is always the third wheel with his friends. “Marry Me A Little”, “Barcelona” many versions of “Bobby-Babby” and a solidly performed version of “Being Alive”. Miller nails it! In fact, this cast under the musical direction of Tom Vendafreddo gets all of Sondheim’s music the way it was meant to be heard. Since musicals are still fairly new to this venue, it is the sound equipment and mikes that need to be addressed. Once they fix that situation, their productions will sparkle even more.
The musicians who are backstage, led by Michael Kaish at the keyboards are perfect- BJ Cord, Dan Johnson, Nick Moran, Vijay Tellis-Nayak, Michael Sinclair and Jeff Handley- great work!
Being a chamber piece, there is not a great deal of choreography, but the work of Brock Clawson is sheer fun, the lighting (Jesse Klug) works and the costumes (Rachel Anne Healy) fitting. Scott Dickens handled the props, and while there are not a lot of set pieces, there were a number of props. They do need to work a bit on the drinks to avoid spillage (can be dangerous on a wooden stage). Getting back to an earlier statement, the birthday party is not the basis for the story, but is indeed the set-up. “Company” is based on a series of sketches about couples and in each, an outsider is there to observe and play off them. Bobby is that outsider and in Sondheim’s creative mind, the ensemble pitches in when needed. This is indeed a special show for me. One that I love and I am as excited as one can be to see a theater such as Writers Theatre bring us this tasteful, intimate and memorable production.
“Company” will continue thru August 7th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m. (with 3 p.m. matinees on 6/29 and 7/13)
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 6 p.m.
Running time- 2 hours-20 minutes with one intermission.
Tickets range in price from $35-$80 and can be purchased by calling 847-242-600 or online at http://www.writerstheatre.orgor at the box office located at 325 Tudor Court in Glencoe.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Company”