Monday, May 02, 2011


COMPANY is go see theatre at FPAC

As Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the music and lyrics for Company, which is now on stage at Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory, stated of the musical’s story, “A man with no emotional commitments reassesses his life on his thirty-fifth birthday by reviewing his relationships with his married acquaintances and his girlfriends. That is the entire plot.”

COMPANY is unlike most modern musicals, which follow a clearly delineated plot. It is actually a concept musical composed of short vignettes, presented in no particular chronological order, linked by a birthday party.

COMPANY was among the first musicals to deal with adult problems through its music. For example, Bobbie confronts the five couples. He asks, “Why get married?” “What do you get from it but someone to smother you and make you feel things you don't want to feel?” In spite of his arguments, which seem more for himself than for his listeners, he comes to the conclusion, in the emotional curtain-closing song, that he, in fact, needs someone to share his life with, someone to help and hurt and hinder and love, someone to face the challenges of Being Alive.

The show opened on Broadway on April 26, 1970 and ran for 705 performances in spite of mixed reviews. Numerous revivals have been undertaken, often tweaking the script, the staging and the score. The latest was a recent New York Philharmonic Concert whose all-star cast included Neil Patrick Harris as Bobby and Craig Bierko, Stephen Colbert, Jon Cryer and Patti LuPone.

The Fairmount production, under the adept direction of Fred Sternfeld, is excellent. Simple staging, creative choreography by Bebe Weinberg-Katz, Trad Burns turntable set, and Benjamin Gantose’s lighting design, all add to the quality of production. Musical director Jonathan Swoboda’s orchestra plays well and underscores rather than drowning out the performers. The choral blends are very good.

The cast is universally strong. Standouts include Ursula Cataan (Amy) whose fast-paced doubletalk Getting Married Today is a showstopper. Natalie Green’s (Marta) plaintiff Another Hundred People is another highlight. Tracee Patterson (Joanne) gave just the right drunk, tourchy, vibrance to her characterization and the plaintive The Ladies Who Lunch.

Connor O’Brien (Robert) has a well-trained operatic voice which he uses well in the thoughtful Someone Is Waiting, the delightful Side by Side and the powerful Being Alive. His acting is not of the same level as his vocalizations, as he often feigns facial expressions and emotions. He acts, rather than reacts, thus sometimes giving a superficial feel to the role.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: COMPANY is a go-see production! The quality of staging and performances gives good service to this Sondheim adult musical.