Friday July 28th 2017

” COMPANY “

[3 stars]For those of you who read my reviews on a regular basis, you know that I am a true Sondheim “lover”. I love his music and lyrics and the way that he makes ordinary words into tongue twisting songs that ring in your mind for years and years. One of his least done shows, “Company” with a book by George Furth, is back on a stage in Chicago. This is a play that deals with a young man, Robert ( a solid effort by Benjamin Springer, who has the look, if not the voice to handle the role) who is turning 35. All of his friends are either married or about to be, while he just continues playing the field. This was the 70’s and when your friends got married during that period, they expected you to “join the club”. Robert or as they call him ,”Bobby” looks at his friends and sees something that he is uncomfortable with, but as the story goes on, he stands before us and sings the powerful “Being Alive” ( a song where Sprunger gets the emotion that is perfect) letting us know that he is at a crossroad in his life. He wants someone to be there for him and he sees that despite the problems his friends complain about, they all have that “someone to hold them to tight” “Someone to make them feel right”, no matter what fate deals them.

This is a strong production directed by  Jonathan Berry on a set designed by Jessica Kuehnau, that was designed to be a multi level, upper class Manhattan apartment as well as other locales. The set is not the glitz and glamour that one would see in a major production, but Griffin Theatre Company does what it can with the budget it must work with, and considering they are only charging $32 for this show, they won’t be able to do the glitz for awhile. But they make up for the lack of glitz with a great deal of talent!

 Doing a production at Stage 773 ( formerly The Theatre Building), depending on which of the three stages you rent, can be an adventure. The North Stage is a three sided, arena, where the musicians are almost on the stage ( there were a few times that they overshadowed the actors, which is a pity because when it comes to Sondheim, you want to hear every word), so a director must make sure that all three sides of the audience feel that they are not neglected. Berry has done a good job in doing so and has used some of our town’s fine young talent to make this rather long, and in some areas, just a bit wordy, work.

Paul Fagen, the voluptuous Samantha Dubina as April ( one of Bobby’s female “Greek Chorus-like” girlfriends), Elizabeth Lanza as Kathy ( another of the trio), adorable Dana Tretta as the third f these ladies, Marta ( who truly rocks doing “Another Hundred People” and with  Dubina and Lanza, does a smashing version of one of my favorites “You Could Drive A Person Crazy”), Larry Baldacci, Allison Cain, Nikki Klix , Mari Stratton, Danny Taylor, Trey Maclin, Laura McClain, Robert McClean and the lovely Darci Nalepa who truly shows her talent in “Getting Married Today”. These are all wonderful talents who one can see ,feel the words of Sondheim’s lyrics and understand the beat of his music. While this line might sound reversed to you- I mean exactly what I say. After all, we are talking about Stephen Sondheim, right?

The choreography by Erin Kilmurray was very right for the music of this show, from the “Opening” ( which by the way is called the opening) and “Company” to “Have I Got A Girl For You” to “Getting Married” and the very creative “Side By Side” to open the second act, these actors can dance. I certainly do not want to omit the movement that was part of “You Could Drive A Person Crazy”, a masterpiece and “What Would We Do Without You”. The costumes by Alison Siple and the sound by Rick Sims along with the lighting by Lee Keenan all added to the overall production that Griffin has placed on the stage. It is not an easy show to stage and in particular on someone else’s stage. Rumor has it that they are about to find their own stage- congrats to them, but until then, you can catch “Company” through November 14th at Stage 773 located at 1225 West Belmont with performances on Friday and Saturday evenings  at 7:30 p.m and Sundays at 3. FYI-  around 2 hours and 45 minutes including a 15 minute intermission)

Tickets are $32 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 773-327-5252 or online , visit www.stage773.comPorchlightTheatre’s “Sunday in The Park With George” is in the same building ( through 10/31) if you need more Sondheim

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