The musical comedy, COMPANY, opened at the Kelsey Theatre, Mercer County Community College, NJ, on May 18th. COMPANY opened on Broadway in April, 1970 – 32 years ago, to mixed reviews. The songs were described as “for the most part undistinguished.” (Variety Magazine), and yet the show continues to be produced everywhere including a recent concert version in NYC. While based on a short story written by George Furth, it is Stephen Sondheim who gets credit for the show since he wrote the music and lyrics. With there being a very thin plot, there is all the more reason the performances must be outstanding.
The show is set in the Manhattan apartment of Robert (Bobby,) a 35 year old single guy whose friends try in various ways to convince him he would be happier if he were to marry, although all of their marriages are not wonderful.
A series of disconnected scenes follow the full cast opening number as the ensemble wishes Bobby “Happy Birthday!” From there, scenes – sometimes strange ones – follow as Bobby interacts with different friends in a multitude of ways.
The overall performance lacked good a consistent, confident pace, enthusiasm, and energy. This feeling was reflected in uncertain and unenthusiastic audience responses.
Only one of the scenes was really funny, in my opinion: Bobby and his friends David and Jenny smoke a little too much marijuana as they reminisce. Michael Gearty as David stole that scene, with Cathy Liebars’ humor close behind.
With her big voice, Liebars was outstanding also in singing along with Debbie Lingel’s delightful, frenetic delivery in “Getting Married Today.”
Also outstanding was Lauren Parsons as flight attendant, April. She and Bobby had several tender scenes together.
A good song is the delightful stand-alone number, “You Could Drive A Person Crazy.” Singing it very well are Lauren Parsons, Mariel Rosati and Shannon Rakow. Rosati does a very nice job with another solo, “Another Hundred People (Just Got off Of the Train.)”
I have saved the best for last. Jim Petro as Robert has a fine musical comedy singing voice, is good looking, and, while a little wooden in some of his movements, generally is quite comfortable on stage.
There were obvious technical difficulties on opening night, both with sound and lighting. Several experiences of loud sound feedback were especially hard on the ears. Those glitches can affect onstage performances considerably. Let’s hope those problems are corrected for the remainder of the run.
Pete LaBriola directed the Pierrot Production’s fourteen member cast; Lou Woodruff is musical conductor/keyboardist for the twelve member orchestra, and Kat Kline is choreographer. As always, much credit goes to the people behind the scenes we often don’t remember to commend.
Book by George Furth
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Pete LaBriola
Choreography by Kat Kline
Musical Direction by Pam Sharples and Lou Woodruff.
May 18-June 3, 2012
at Kelsey Theatre
Mercer County Community College
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ 08550