Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by George Furth
Directed by Debbie Hershey
Review be Wayne Erreca (1-16-17)
I love discovering the backstage stories behind stage productions. Company was supposed to be known by the world as Threes, but whoever came up with the bright title of Company should be applauded. Its conception came from the imagination or lifetime experiences of Playwright George Furth who had written eleven one-act plays, and for a period of time he was only lingering around, and looking for a theatre to produce it at. I can identify with that very lonesome feeling, having written a two-act play in 1991, titled The Servant’s Ring. Furth, eventually, in the late 1960’s, had the good fortune of when Producer/Director Harold Prince, and Composer Stephen Sondheim found interest in his one-act plays, and envisioned that the storylines would make for a captivating musical of five New York married couples, and three girlfriends, who are in attendance at their mutual friend’s 35th birthday. What makes this musical production deliciously exciting is the fact that their bachelor friend, they call Bobby, has always had a bad habit of shying away from relationships. So, with this description of the play, Bobby has the opportunity to converse, and evaluate each of the five couple marriages, and reminisce with his three prior girlfriends. Sondheim’s music is lively and colorful, and his lyrics are energetic to ones ears, that immediately perk you up, and lift you through its many snappy comedic and romantic scenes of sheer joy!
Director Debbie Hershey was spot-on in casting each and every single actor in Company! Couple number one: David (Britton Dennis) and Susan (Laura Ann Johnson), Couple number two: Peter (Chad Hall) and Jenny (Psaira Dennison), Couple number three: Larry (Daniel Bruining) and Joanne (Terri Heffron), Couple number four: Harry (Patrick Gillespie) and Sarah (Christy Burich), and Couple number five: Paul (Zachary Watson) and Amy (Meaghan Jameson). Along with Girlfriend number one: Marta (Kate Kilpatrick), Girlfriend number two: April (Sarah Hartley), and Kathy (Allix Geiger). This marvelous cast performed wonderfully with all the right touches, energy, timing, and constantly were fused together with a spirited and delightful chemistry!
Bobby, portrayed by Jeremy Hogue, is perfectly cast, with his handsome features, carrying himself calmly, soulfully, and with his strong and pleasant singing voice, allowing you to easily drink in every syllable, and feel every nuance, the way Sondheim expects it. The five couples each have their own relationships that share jolly laughs, and heartfelt feelings, and each were performed with perfection. Bobby’s three ‘left behind’ girlfriends have golden moments with him, bringing back the strong feelings they once felt for one another, and adjusting to their present realities, as they walk away again into the future.
Director Debbie Hershey was given a tremendous gift in having an extremely talented staff, who are: Assistant Director (Katie Trzaska-Miller), Stage Manager (Haley Bowker), Music Director (Sam Clark), Vocal Director (Mel Stoll and Chad Hall), Choreographer (Melissa May), Lighting Designer (Bill Fishburn), Karate Fight Coordinator (Zach Miller), Producer (Kate Cosentino), Props (Karen Gardner and Sheri Wallace), Costume Designer (Kathy Verstraete), Set Designer (Matt McCormick and Kerr Anderson), and Sound Designer/Production Resource Manager (Gary Bolton).
Company was first produced on Broadway in New York City on April 26, 1970 at the Alvin Theatre. It had a successful run of 705 performances and was nominated fourteen times and winning six of the Tony Awards. It’s amazing what can happen to a playwright who is in search of a composer, especially, if that composer’s name is Stephen Sondheim. In 1991, I too, grabbed the golden ring on the merry-go-round of life by bumping into Composer Jill Costanzo who happens to be the daughter of the legendry bongo musician Jack Costanzo, known as “Mr. Bongo”. She composed an incredible score for my musical book of The Servant’s Ring and the musical won the Eastie Award for Best Musical of the Year in 1999. Good things do happen!
It’s amazing how fresh and lively Company has remained over these many years. The relationships shared within its dialogue are as contemporary to marriage couples today as when everyone else was wearing bell-bottom pants, and wore fringe leathered vests, and saying, after a long and steady toke, “Heeeyyy, man, that’s groovey, and out-of-sight, you want some?” Some things just don’t grow old or spoil, but are just as fresh today as yesterday. If you want to feel forty years younger (of course, I’m addressing all of you oldsters) and feel like you could pick up a guitar again, and strum a tune, and even let your plastered hair down, and rolling out (I’m not implying any dobbie’s) a Jimi Hendrix record of “Wild Thing”, you can get all of the above in one entertaining package by attending a performance of Sondheim’s fabulous musical production of Company at the Old Town Playhouse. Dobbie, huh? Well, leave that until after Company’s curtain call is over, and drive home safely with your windows down. Company is a real gas, man!