Theatre Mirror Reviews "Company"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"Company"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at MMAS is Stephen Sondheim's "Company". The show is set in New York City in 1977 and tells the story of Robert, 35 years old with charm, good looks and humor. "Company" is a concept musical composed of short vignettes and takes place on his 35th birthday where the audience meets his 10 married friends and three of his girlfriends. He is the only one in his group of friends without a spouse, and his peers think that needs to be corrected. Robert is afraid of not being married but is hesitant due to the imperfections in his friends' marriages. "Company" was nominated for fourteen Tony Awards and won six Tony Awards when it first opened on Broadway on April 26, 1970. The original show ran for 705 performances. Meg Quin-Dussault directs her 14 member cast wonderfully while music director Shannon Manley taught them the difficult Sondheim songs and also conducts a six piece orchestra and Kayla Armstrong creates the many different dances for the show. This topnotch rendition is rewarded with a standing ovation at curtain call.

Meg blocks the show beautifully, obtaining topnotch performances from her cast. Shannon obtains the harmonic blend of the performers and orchestra with "Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You" segment, stopping the show with their song and dance prowess. Kayla's choreography includes kick line, soft shoe with top hat and cane and the Charleston. The set is by Michael Duarte, the props by Sue Hamilton and all the costumes are by Atia DeRosa. James Fernandes plays the huge role of Robert, proving he's a triple threat performer who can sing, dance and act with finesse. James is a human dynamo, moving from one vignette to the other with ease and is onstage the entire show. He captures the inner turmoil and angst of the character. One of his funniest moments occurs in the bedroom scene while Bobby tries to copulate with the stewardess and all his friends show up to comment on it. James' powerful singing voice soars off the charts in "Someone is Waiting" which he sings to the wives in Act 1 especially effective is his falsetto at the end of it. The comic bedroom number duet is "Barcelona" and the fabulous pathos inducing "Being Alive" moves the audience to tears with James' powerful rendition. This latter number is Bobby's final realization of needing someone to call his own. James is a dynamite performer who I previously reviewed in "Merrily We Roll Along" at PC in 2002 and "Evita" at Little Theatre of Fall River in 2004.

The five married couples have many funny moments. The group numbers "Company" and "Side by Side" shine with their singing and dancing. Eric Lightbody as Harry and Sarah Barlow as Sarah make the constantly arguing and karate practicing couple into a comic romp. She is always on a diet while sneaking bite of a brownie and he is an alcoholic who is constantly trying to serve Bobby drinks. Eric shows off his voice in the trio number called "Sorry-Grateful", one of Sondheim's reflections on married life. Christopher Crossen-Sills as Peter and Carolyn Cafarelli as Susan are the couple who surprises Bobby by getting divorced. A gay motive for the divorce is alluded to in the second act for Peter but it is passed off as a joke since the show was written in 1970 and being gay was a taboo subject back then. Both make the most of this underwritten couple with their wonderful facial expressions and comic line delivery. Also funny is her Southern accent. The third couple of David played by Brendon Auld and Jenny played by Megan McNulty are the dope smoking couple. This scene is hilarious as Megan's character swears up a storm while denying she is high. Brendon shows off his voice in many solo segments of the group numbers including "Sorry-Grateful" while Megan shows off her strong soprano voice in the "Bless the Bride" solo. They both handle their roles with ease.

The fourth couple, Paul and Amy are played by Chris DiOrio and Laura Gustafson. This couple almost didn't get married due to her pre-wedding jitters. She calls off the wedding to Paul by telling him she doesn't love him but fortunately thinks things out and they get married at last. Laura clad in a wedding dress, does an excellent job with the tongue twisting lyrics of the patter song "Getting Married Today" and has a hilarious ad lib with a young audience member wondering if he had a driver's license to help her escape the wedding. Chris remains very patient with her wacky behavior and shows off his strong voice in his solo moments of this number. The final couple is Irina V. Gott as Joanne and Joseph Luca as Larry. This couple has an inactive marriage, she is a bitchy, demanding wife who is on husband #3 and looking to make it with any man around including Bobby. Irina does a terrific job with her bitter solo number "The Ladies Who Lunch" which sounds like Sondheim's "I'm Still Here" from "Follies". Joseph plays the long suffering husband who puts up with his wife's awful antics and gives into her every whim. He shows off his strong baritone voice in "Sorry, Grateful. The last performers who get to shine in this show are Bobby's three girlfriends. Alyssa Gorgone as Marta, Andrea Segal as April and Emily Buckley as Kathy sing an Andrews Sisters type song about their relationship with Bobby called "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" where they give him the finger at the ending of it. Alyssa is the hippie girlfriend with a wacky philosophical look at the world. She belts out her solo "Another Hundred People" about her view of NYC. Alyssa also tells Bobby how to loosen up with her description of how to figure people out by looking at their ass to see whether they are uptight asses or not. Andrea is a hoot as April, the dippy stewardess who sings a duet with James called "Barcelona" while clad in her scanties, after a night of hot passionate sex. He wants her to leave but she decides to stay because she thinks he is referring to her sad story of letting the butterfly fly away. Emily plays Kathy, the girl that Bobby let slip away from him and the one he should have married. She handles the irony of this scene beautifully as she decides to return to Cape Cod to get married to someone else. So for a trip back to the 1970's, be sure to catch one of Sondheim's earliest shows, Company at MMAS. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Company" (3 - 19 February)
MMAS
@ Black Box Theater, 377 North Main Street, MANSFIELD MA
1(508)339-2822

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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