Review of Company
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by George Furth
Directed by Patrick Nims
Musical direction by Andrew Klein
Choreography by Kate Kenyon
For tickets / schedule :
Novato Theater Company
RUN: March 23 to April 16, 2017
RATING: 4.5 of 5 stars
(March 31, 2017)
Commitment can be a terrifying word when it comes to relationships; is marriage fulfilling or a nightmare? Is there an advantage to staying single, or will you miss out on something special? When Robert reaches 35, he wrestles with the classic dilemma, receiving a plethora of advice from his married friends, from the balance of giving up independence for the sake of being with the person you love, to fear of losing individual identity, and a sound suggestion that it isn’t enough to want marriage in general, it needs to be desired for a specific person instead. Rather than a linear story, he wafts through vignettes of couples that he knows—the fun and wild duo wrestling through their living room, Jenny and David who have little in common and manage to stay together through force of will, and a captivating incident of premarital jitters with Robert as the hapless Best Man. Throughout the evening come echoes of “Bobby, Bobby!” from backstage, constantly harassing him into a relationship.
Paula Gianetti’s Joanne is outwardly loud and bitter, with an inner yearning for acceptance behind her chain-smoking veneer. Her The Ladies Who Lunch is belted out with dramatic fervor, to the chagrin of Larry (Stephen Beecroft) her put-upon, but attentive husband. Amanda Morando is the self confident Marta, with a fascinating commentary on New York and the importance of truly seeing those you come into contact with, rather than walking past without noticing the crowd. She is unafraid of celebrating her unique personality, and does not push Robert to be a person he is not. Nicole Thordsen’s Amy is a standout in her neurotic panic attack, gibbering about boiled orange juice and marriage while being serenaded by Jennifer Rodway’s increasingly satirizing lyrics, clutching a bouquet of lilies with counterfeit innocence. It is Robert Nelson who carries the show, with lengthy solos, such as Someone is Waiting and Being Alive. His soothing voice and earnest quest for a partner are easy to sympathize with.
Informed observations on marriage appear throughout the musical, such as relationships being built on the little things done together, but ultimately it is a comedy with over-the-top lyrics and dances, complete with top hats and a chorus line. Choreographer Kate Kenyon tosses out an amusing reference to Charlie’s Angels when the three single women take on You Could Drive a Person Crazy. Director Patrick Nims arranges the large cast with care throughout the play, keeping the overall visual lively, even when couples are not actively participating in a scene. I appreciated that Marina Nims’ costume design was based on the personality of characters, rather than rigid period accuracy.
Company’s songs are not memorable, and include often repeated phrases, but it is a charming experiment in using a theme, rather than plot to create a musical. Novato Theater Company has gathered a talented core of actors who are a triple threat—they can sing, dance, and act. Company in Novato is an enchanting production exploring the comedic pitfalls of marriage through a series of scenes chronicling lovers and their struggles.