Theatre Mirror Reviews - "COMPANY"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone



”COMPANY”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



The opening show of Lyric Stage's season is "Company" by Stephen Sondheim. The show is set in New York City and is about Robert who is turning 35 years old with good looks, charm and humor. "Company" is a concept musical composed of short vignettes, takes place on his birthday where the audience meets his ten married friends and three girl friends. Robert is the only one in his group of friends without a spouse and his peers think that needs to be corrected. He is afraid of not being married but is hesitant due to the imperfections in his friends' marriages. "Company" was nominated for 14 Tony Awards, won six of them when it first opened on Broadway on April 26, 1970, running for 705 performances. Director Spiro Veloudos picks 14 terrific performers to fill these roles while musical director Catherine Stornetta taught them the intricate Sondheim score. Choreographer Rachel Bertone supplies the impressive dance numbers for this musical with standout "Side by Side" performed by the whole cast. This talented cast is rewarded with a resounding ovation as their reward on a job extremely well done.

Spiro updates the show to 2016 and not only directs the show brilliantly but obtains every laugh and ounce of pathos from his performers while Rachel's energetic dance numbers invigorate the audience with her expertise. This is also Spiro's 20th Anniversary at Lyric Stage. The cast performs them in perfect unison. Catherine brings out the best vocals from them with terrific harmonic balance in the group numbers and an exquisite sound from the 8 piece orchestra. John Ambrosino plays the huge role of Robert, once again proving he is a triple threat performer who can sing, dance and act with finesse. He is onstage for the whole show delivering a tour-de-force performance while capturing the inner turmoil and angst of the character splendidly. John is a human dynamo as he moves from one vignette to the other with ease. One of his funniest moments occurs in the bedroom when Robert tries to copulate with the stewardess and all his friends appear to comment on it. John's powerful singing voice soars off the charts in "Someone is Waiting" which he sings to the wives in Act 1 and "Marry Me a Little" which closes the first Act. The comic bedroom duet number is "Barcelona" while the fabulous pathos inducing number is "Being Alive" which moves the audience to tears at John's powerhouse rendition of it. His tenor voice soars off the charts. This latter number is Robert's final realization of needing someone to call his own. I last reviewed John as the Baker in "Into the Woods" at Lyric back in 2014 where he delivered a phenomenal performance, too. Bravo.

The five married couples have many funny moments, too. The group numbers "Company", "Side by Side" and "What Would I Do Without You" shine with their singing and dancing skills. Davron Monroe and Kerri Wilson as Harry and Sarah make the constantly arguing, karate practicing couple into a comic romp. She is always on a diet while he is an alcoholic who keeps offering Robert drinks. Davron displays his voice in "Sorry, Grateful", Sondheim's reflection on married life. Matthew Zahnzinger and Elise Arsenault as Peter and Susan, are the supposedly happy couple who surprises Robert with the news of their divorce. A gay motive is alluded to for the divorce in the second act when Peter makes a suggestive comment to his friend. Both of them do an excellent job with their facial expressions and comic line delivery. Her Southern accent is hilarious, too. Todd Yard and Teresa Winner Blume play the third couple, David and Jenny who smoke dope with Robert. This scene is hilarious as she denies being high while swearing up a storm. Todd displays his voice in many solo segments and in "Sorry, Grateful" while Teresa displays her strong soprano voice in "Bless the Bride'' solo. They both handle their roles splendidly.

The fourth couple Paul and Amy are excellently played by Tyler Simahk and Erica Spyres. Paul and Amy almost didn't get married due to pre-wedding jitters. She calls off her wedding to Paul, telling him that she doesn't love him but fortunately thinks things through and gets married at last. The gorgeous blonde, Erica is dazzling in a white wedding dress and does a marvelous job with the tongue twisting lyrics to "I'm Not Getting Married Today", a patter song. Tyler remains very patient with her wacky behavior and displays his strong voice in the solo sections of this number. He also delivers a poignant moment when he leaves crushed from her rejection. The final couple is extremely well played by veteran performers, Leigh Barrett and Will McGarrahan as Joanne and Larry. This couple has an inactive marriage because she is bitchy, is on her third husband and is constantly trying to hop pin the sack with any available guy around including Robert. She sings "The Little Things You Do Together" in the first act as the couples observe Robert being all by himself. Leigh does an astounding job with the eleventh hour number, the bitter "The Ladies Who Lunch" which is reminiscent of a later Sondheim number "I'm Still Here" from "Follies." She stops the show with this song as she does all night long while demonstrating her acting chops as this overbearing broad. It is quite a contrast to the sympathetic Nettie from "Carousel" which is the last role I saw her in, proving her mettle as a superb actress. Will plays her long suffering husband who puts up with her shenanigans and gives into her every whim. "Sorry-Grateful" is the song that displays Will's strong baritone voice.

The last performers who get to shine in this show are Robert's three girlfriends, Carla Martinez as Marta, Adrianne Hick as April and Maria LaRossa as Kathy. They sing an Andrews Sisters type number called "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" in perfect three part harmony and give him the finger at the end of it. Carla is the hippie girlfriend with a wacky philosophical view of the world. She belts out her solo "Another Hundred People" in her marvelous soprano voice which is about her view on NYC. Her philosophy to Robert is that you can tell when people are uptight or not by checking out their asses. Adrianne is a hoot as the dimwitted stewardess who sings a duet with John called "Barcelona" after a night of hot passionate sex while scantily clad. Robert wants her to leave but she misunderstands because of her sad butterfly story that he wants her to stay. I last reviewed her as Nellie in "South Pacific" at Ivoryton Playhouse. Maria plays the girl that Robert should have married but let slip away. She handles the irony of this scene perfectly as she decides to return to Cape Cod to marry someone else. She also performs a splendid jazz dance to "Tick-Tock." The gorgeous costumes for this show are by Rafael Jaen. So for a trip back to one of Sondheim's earliest musicals, be sure to catch "Company" at Lyric Stage before the entire run is sold out. It is definitely the must see show of the autumn season. Tell them Tony sent you.

COMPANY (2 September to 9 October)
Lyric Stage of Boston, Inc, 140 Clarendon St, Boston, MA
1(617)585-5678 or www.lyricstage.com




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