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AACT’s “Company” is solid, entertaining (review) January 8, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, Entertainment, musical theater, Musicals.
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Love it or hate it, Sondheim and Furth’s musical “Company” makes a solid and entertaining appearance at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre this weekend. Tinkered with more than any other of Sondheim’s shows, the current version of the script isn’t necessarily the best, but it is what MTI has chosen to license. Ann Arbor Civic Theater takes some liberties with it that further water-down the central dilemma, but its nothing if not entertaining.

I am not going to review the script — you either know it, or don’t. There isn’t much to it — diverse vignettes tying together a loose story of a guy not sure why all his married friends want him to couple up as well. Back in 1972 when originally written, it had some resonance with upscale New Yorkers who attend musical theater (even then the reviews were not all positive). As rewritten more recently, with our changing sexual mores and gender fluidity, the question really is no longer why is he not coupled-up, but why would he want to be?

There are some truly terrific cast members in director Rachel Francisco’s production. Some have mighty voices (Robert Griswold as Bobby, Trisha Fountain as Jenny, Amy Bogetto-Weinraub as Joanne). Others have mighty acting skills (Nick Boyer as Peter, Marci Rosenberg as Amy). Rounding out the strong ensemble cast are Jodi-Renee Giron as Sarah, Paul Clark as Harry, Madison Merlanti as Susan, James Christie as David, Amanda Bynum as “Paula”, Matt Steward as Larry, Kate Papachristou as as Marta, Kimberly Elliott as April, and Chris Joseph as “Kevin”.

Jennifer Goltz has done her usual excellent work as musical director, and the 4-piece jazz-infused orchestra sounds both larger than it is, and provides lovely music throughout.

Some of the pacing is too slow. Long scenes (the show is very talky) seem dragged out at times even longer than they need to be. The opening number (Company) felt like it was twice as slow as written, and that leads to a less-than-energized opening sequence (which gets much better as the show goes along). Some might call the slower pace leisurely and contemplative — though I am not sure those are qualities that make a production of “Company” soar. At times too much of the staging faces the center section at the expense of house right and left audience seeing backs and sides.

There are fun surprises in the show – and I won’t even begin to describe what Nick Boyer does with a beer bottle.

All in all, it is a very entertaining (though slowish) evening. Recommended.

Company continues at the Arthur Miller Theatre on University of Michigan’s North Campus through Sunday January 10th. Tickets at a2ct.org or at the door.

 

 

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Encore has Company (review) September 27, 2013

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, musical theater, Musicals.
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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