COMPANY was probably the first touring musical I had ever seen, and I thought it was great seeing it then. Stephen Sondheim’s amazing music and lyrics, and in his revolutionary notions of what makes a successful play… The concept for COMPANY is not that strange of a topic for Sondheim. It is a harsh, penetrating look at relationships. Ultimately, the play asks the more important question of why we need relationships and marriages at all.
At STAGES at Camden Community College, I’ve seen something new added to the 40 plus-year-old musical. It may have been done before, but I haven’t seen it—that is COMPANY being produced in a black box theatre with no set, no props—only actors.
The stage isn’t totally empty; there are three lit towers—symbolic pieces. Stated mathematically–two plus one. If we are talking about people, the towers would represent a couple plus one. The towers worked beautifully as a means to separate couples in moments of disagreement, aggression, bitterness, disappointment, etc. as well as to keep Bobby alone, or on another level to observe.
For a composer/lyricist who has a reputation for taking the most unusual topics and for being constantly told his plays would fail on Broadway, Sondheim’s COMPANY produced in 1970 was nominated for 16 Tony Awards and won six. And, it has consistently won Tony Awards during revival seasons as late as 2011. Why? The answer is simple. It’s great material that we all can relate to.
However, this is a challenging show for actors in that they can’t look at each other as they usually do on stage when they speak or sing. There is no reacting to the acting. For the most part, the actors (in character) continue to look straight out front at the audience. The audience is part of the show with the characters constantly reminding us this is not only about them, but us as well.
The action weaves in and out on the stage at times. At other times it flows to points on the stage and freezes some actors, but not all. The music is extremely varied from the “can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head” to a “rapid fire” to a “rant” song. All the characters seem to have one major number very different from all the others that’s theirs alone to “show off.” One of Bobby’s (or Robert’s) girlfriends belts out a long ballad telling a grim tale of how life is and another sings like an angel at church. It’s a study in contrasts performed by great talented ladies. Perhaps, these contrasts in songs serve as a reminder of the differences in relationships or in people in general.
So far I haven’t said a thing about the story. To tell each twist would take a lot of space so here is the reduced version. A birthday party is being planned for Bob, Bobby or Robert as his friends know him as he turns 35. All his friends are married, and although he has a few girlfriends hanging around, he has never married. Bobby says he wants to be married but it has never seemed right at the time he was seeing someone. As he has dinner with each of his married friends he finds their relationships aren’t as rosy as he imagined—while some, in fact, are a bit twisted. Of course, the question of homosexuality does arise.
Despite all that Bobby discovers through the dinners and dating, there is something important about himself that has nothing to do with getting married.
The story is told backwards, all of the action happening prior to the birthday party.
STAGES at Camden Community College’s production of COMPANY is certainly a hit in my eyes.
I’d like to point out those actors in particular that made me take extra notice: Matt Reher as “Robert,” who never ceases to astound me with his effortless singing and acting, Melissa Connell as “Sarah,” is so focused in her character’s world that I’d know what she was saying without sound. Maria Panvini as “Amy” was simply amazing with her terrified bride rapid-fire song. Annie Chartrand (“Jenny”) made such beautiful music with her voice alone, and Jenna Kuerzi lived “Marta” all the way and with a belt that was unbelievable. The entire cast was phenomenal. The music from the pit band was flawless. The lighting and sound: perfect. The direction and choreography: magnificent. I’m running out of superlatives so come out to STAGES at Camden Community College to see COMPANY.
Book by George Furth
Music and Lyrics by
Directed by Marjorie Sokoloff
October 18, 19, 24, 25 & 26 at 8pm
October 20, 2013 at 3pm
STAGES at Camden County College
311 College Drive
Blackwood, NJ 08012