Encore has Company (review)

Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s musical Company is now onstage at Dexter’s Encore, with some wonderful casting and a great vocal and acting performance by Steve DeBruyne.

Seen at the final preview, the cast is strong, and they sound great. The couples work well together. Sonja Marquis and Greg Bailey are a fun Sarah and Harry. Marlene Inman-Reilly and Andrew Gorney make for a fine Susan and Peter. Jenny and David are well-portrayed by Emily Rogers and Pete Podolski. Katie Lietz and Jess Alexander are both excellent as Amy and Paul. Wendy Katz Hiller and Mark Bernstein turn in strong performances as Joanne and Larry. Annemarie Friedo, Bryana Hall, and Elsa Harchick round out the cast as Marta, Kathy, and April — who turn in fine vocal and acting performances, but who are given the evening’s oddest choreography and movement.

The production as a whole looks good on Leo Babcock’s set and in Sharon Urick’s costumes. Hopefully, by the time the show opens they will have sorted out the lighting miscues and the sound which was hit or miss and which caused many of Sondheim’s clever lyrics to be swallowed up. It doesn’t help that director/choreographer Paul Hopper has the cast doing odd milling and marching movements during the intricate patter-based vocal passages. You hear every other phrase as they alternately face toward and away from the audience. This is certainly not the fault of Tyler Driskill who has done good musical direction here, and whose ensemble sounds very good.

The direction and pacing are slow, and it makes for a long evening. The fine cast saves the production. Overall, this is not one of Encore’s best, despite superb performers (who sometimes seem like they are making up their own blocking as they go) and in which the already too-long evening is drawn out even longer with curious blocking.

Maybe we’ve been over-saturated with Company here in SE Michigan for awhile — personally this is the 5th local production of Company I have seen in as many years. Quite frankly, some of the other local productions have been stronger (and tighter).

Company won Tony Awards in 1971 for Best Book, Music, Lyrics and Musical. It was up against The Me Nobody Knows and The Rothschilds. Enough said.

Overall, you won’t dislike this Company — you just might not walk away from it overly awed by the production.


Company continues through October 20th. Tickets:  http://www.theencoretheatre.org


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