Stirling Community Theatre, Fri 6 Nov.
Company is a concept musical comprised of short vignettes about relationships and all their complications, with a book by George Furth and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. That’s right, Sondheim! The musical genius who seems to sends most musicians and singers into insanity due to the complexity of his work. First and foremost, the cast and orchestra, under the musical direction of Mark DeLaine, deserve massive praise for the meticulous devotion they have clearly put into the music. The Sondheim chaos from the page sounded stunning tonight.
Company begins with the 35th birthday party for Robert, a New York bachelor who reflects on what it means to be single, made confronting by five sets of heterosexual married couples surrounding him to celebrate. The audience is taken into the mind of Robert as he spends time with each the couples as well as his three girlfriends to explore dating, friendship, love and commitment.
When first performed on Broadway in 1970, Company confronted musical theatre audiences with an examination of ‘real life’, rather than the fantasy world audiences were used to being engrossed in. 45 years on and with many musicals following its move into the real world, Company doesn’t have much going for it these days and it isn’t going to appeal to all audience members. This is not to say that Hills Musical Company have not done an excellent job of bringing back this significant piece of musical theatre.
Fiona DeLaine has managed to cast a stand-out group of dedicated individuals who love a challenge. The first of the vignettes karate kicks off the show with a bang, as Kate Anolak (Sarah) and Jamie Richards (Harry) nail their first scene together with so much energy and great characterisation. Their talent and experience is clearly evident and they are a joy to watch.
Other stand-outs included Jess Rossiter as the hilarious highly anxious bride Amy, Danni Zappia as the delightful square Jenny, Kerry Staight as the ‘dumb’, awkward flight attendant April and Jenny Scarce-Tolley perfected her cynical and callous character Joanne. Most of the males in the show don’t have much to work with in their characters and are left to demonstrate the more mundane nature of long-term relationships.
As the main character who ties all the couples and girlfriends together, Josh Barkley does a fine job as Robert. Vocally he sounds great and in terms of characterisation, he does well with a character that often drifts into the background curiously observing.
Visually the staging and shapes in each scene were pleasing and nicely complemented the fascinating set, designed by Jamie Richards and superbly executed by its constructors and painters. The set took out some of the usual exits on the Stirling Community Theatre stage and the cast exited through side stage curtains or into the audience sitting in the first row, in an attempt I believe, to break that wall between audience and performers due to these being ‘real life’ problems.
Set movement, lighting cues and lighting spots were sometimes off and the sound levels could do with some slight changes so the cast is more audible, but overall it worked well enough for an opening night performance.
It has been 16 years since Company was last performed in Adelaide and Sondheim fans should buy their tickets immediately to hear his beautiful complex work executed so effectively.
Company continues at Stirling Community Theatre at various times until Sat 21 Nov.
Bookings at the Hills Musical Company website. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image courtesy of Mark Anolak