Sunday, January 14, 2007

On Broadway: COMPANY

Finally, last night, I saw Company. What was I waiting for? Had I become a complete failure in my devotion to Sondheim? Well, not quite because I do have excuses. None of them are valid, of course, well, maybe expect my excuse that I was still mourning the closing of Sweeney Todd. Did I find Company perfect? Well, yes, I did. Will I see it like I saw Sweeney Todd? Oh, I'll definitely see it again, but it's doubtful that this show will have my undivided attention. Company is a show about grown-ups for grown-ups. Not twenty somethings - I'm talking real grown-ups. I think you have to live a while to really get this show. Sure, you'll like the songs, Raul Esparza, the cast, but I don't think you'll really get it...when your life is full of married people in various stages of happiness and none of that has come your way and you get it because this is your life and you completely understand. It goes without saying that it is Sondheim's music that makes the show - of course, always stunning, provocative, unforgetable. The melodies are hummable, the lyrics catchy and smart. I have heard them all out of context, but combined with George Furth's book, Company delivers thoughtful entertainment that made me think, laugh and cry. I felt like started a little too slowly, but it built to triumph quickly. The entire cast delivered musically and comedically, however held back dramtically. I think it's John Doyle's direction. His direction is smart and he demands that you be a part of it. This is not thoughtless entertainment. I wondered if Doyle's conceptualization of actors playing their own instruments would work as well as it did in Sweeney Todd. It did, and, perhaps, even better. It is a large enough cast to make a full pit band sound. Like Sweeney, the cast was completely capable with their truckload of instruments, handling the acting, playing multiple instruments and choreography with ease. I had already been fortunate to know some of Raul Esparza's work. He is one of those beautiful voiced actors. And you too will be glad when you hear him sing. As for the rest of the cast, none disappointed, but I was most impressed with Angel Desai as Marta, Elizabeth Stanley as April, and Heather Laws as Amy. Each exhibited great comic timing that complemented the work. Keith Buterbaugh and Kristin Huffman, the married couple Harry and Sarah, were riotously funny and very believable. I was anxious in my anticipation of what Barbara Walsh would be like as Joanne, the character made famous by the indomitable Elaine Stritch. Barbara was Mrs. Robinson-like and funny and at times, she did sound like Stritchie, but she didn't steal the role away from her.

The set itself is a perfect member of the cast, very chic and sleek, all shining, black, gleaming glass and silver accessories. It is full, but not overly crowded. The Steinway piano also serves as Bobby's sexy bedroom. It is New York at its most its most sophisticated. Company is about New Yorkers and it is fitting that New York is one of its characters. Another Hundred People is the perfect anthem for and about New Yorkers.

I had been warned that there is constant movement on stage, as there was in Sweeney, but where it almost blended into the scenery in Sweeney , and was choreographed to move along the story almost as a machine, this was actual choreography, it's purpose serving to move the characters in and out, to and from Bobby's unfulfilling single life. At times, it's almost too subtle so when Bobby declares what he wants somebody with Being Alive, at first sarcastically then with demand, it is shocking. However, the shock turned to overwhelming agreement and I found myself covered in chills. I couldn't help notice the two people sit next to me frantically grab each other's hands. I certainly couldn't blame them.

Video courtesy of Youtuber Swallow7.

1 comment:

HughE Dillon said...

I was a little depressed by Company. Married people envieous of the single guy, but telling him he's a loser because he's single. Single guy looking at married folks thinking they are loosers for being married. Mike and I both agreed we didn;t like it. Now the songs, I had heard them before and it was fun to see them in context. Please don't take my gay card away as I never knew they were from this play.