Swirled with a rich amount of sweetness covering an acid base, sourness is blended away into a good natured, high-spirits Little Theatre of Alexandria revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical, "Company." Don’t fear, Sondheim’s music and lyrics have lost none of their bite and the George Furth book still presents marriage as a rough plod.
Fashioned by director Joanna Henry, "Company" is an evening not unlike the recent capping of the BP oil gusher; good news after so many struggles. Henry’s concept is without gimmicks or highly abstract theatrically. She finds the positive and emphasizes the cute to soften the sharper edges of these city-dwelling neurotic characters by casting actors with excellent singing skills, good comedic timing and a comfortable manner.
The musical is built around a sequence of scenes depicting the bumpy, non-romantic parts of marriage through the eyes of Robert, a 35-year-old bachelor. The scene is set as Robert is about to be celebrated with a surprise birthday party given by five affluent couples, who are his best friends. He also considers the prospects of commitment to any of his three current, very different girlfriends.
Edgy sharpness of "Company" is most compelling with the standout performance of Karen Jadlos Shotts an acerbic grumbler; a woman of a certain age who can arch an eyebrow and sling verbal taunts with the highest accuracy. Whether within the ensemble or solo, the attention gravitates to her; her expressions of disdain, her "I’ve seen it all" gestures give Shotts a mesmerizing energy. She nails the anthem "The Ladies Who Lunch," about the foibles of women with a scolding, worn voice; a drink in hand splashing about.
A first-rate singing performance by Patrick McMahan as Robert centers the evening. McMahan presents a handsome easy charm giving a reason for others to care about him and want to find him a wife. Yet when he delivers several of his solos standing center stage, more non-verbal clues would be effective to show deeper emotions whether for caustic themes or the longing for love ("Someone is Waiting" and "Marry Me A Little"). When he has second doubts about his stewardess girlfriend staying over rather than flying out, this reviewer wanted to hug the poor girl and shoe him away.
There are joyous musical highlights through out the production; the delightful work of Corinne Baker, Christina Matula and Maureen Reed in an Andrews Sister’s type rendition of "You Could Drive A Person Crazy" with its cloying adorableness. Sara Jane Lilley’s melt-down as a bride on her wedding day performing (I’m Not) "Getting Married Today" is a combustible treat as she builds energy wending her way through tongue-tying lyrics about her fears of marriage. The ensemble does nicely-tuned, well-timed, full throated versions of production numbers; "Side by Side by Side" and "Being Alive" with its poignant, "I’ll always be there, as frightened as you to help us survive."
With a well-calibrated orchestra under the musical direction of Christopher A. Tomasino, the unseen orchestra of keyboards, reeds, horns, bass and percussion is on its marks blending together with the actors to present a rich musical evening. Choreography by Kay Casstevens while simple was effective. The women gave off easy fun in their gyrations; the men often appeared uncomfortable.
The set (MYKE) with Ken and Patti Crowley’s lighting provide a whiff of the urban with scenes isolated in various areas of the stage. The city location is depicted by projections of black and white skyscrapers within two large frames at disorienting angles at the rear of the set.
"Company" first opened in New York in April 1970 winning six Tony Awards including Best Musical. In May 2002 it was part of The Kennedy Center’s production of Sondheim musicals. A 2006 New York production won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.