Thursday, 17 September 2015

Company, 17 Sept 2015 ***1/2

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by George Furth
Produced by Watch This
At fortyfivedownstairs, until Oct 4, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also published online in Herald Sun today, Fri 18 Sept 2015 and later in print. KH
 Clockwise from centre: Nick Simpson-Deeks (seated), Johanna Allen,Sally Bourne,John O'Hara,Tim Paige, Sonya Suares,Nathan Carter,Mark Dickinson,Gillian Cosgriff, Nelson Gardner,Nicole Melloy, Pic Jodie Hutchinson

In Company, Bobby is the likeable, urbane, New York bachelor living a carefree life that is the envy of his married friends. 

When these adoring pals plan a surprise party to celebrate his 35th birthday, Bobby (AKA Robert) can neither blow out the candles nor manage to make a wish. What’s wrong?

Company, with Stephen Sondheim’s pithy music and lyrics and a witty book by George Furth, won seven Tony awards in 1970, but its provocative themes about the cares and despairs of marriage and relationships still resonate today.

The musical has a non-linear narrative comprising a series of vignettes – Bobby’s thoughts and memories about dinners and parties with these five, diverse couples and a plethora of dates with three of his many girlfriends.

Nick SimpsonDeeks has a bright but warm vocal quality and fine control in his upper register and he cleverly balances Bobby’s smart urbanity with an air of bemused childlikeness.

His rendition of Being Alive is thrilling, his Someone Is Waiting is poignant and Marry Me A Little emphasises Bobby’s naiveté and confusion about marriage.

The ensemble numbers are highlights with the title song, Company, having a rich and exhilarating quality while Side By Side By Side has a playful, almost vaudevillian style.

Some standout performances in Kat Henry’s production include Sally Bourne as the boozy, abrasive, misanthropic and wealthy Joanne, an older woman whose acerbic comments fall like acid rain on any party.

Johanna Allen is exceptionally funny and fine-voiced as Jenny, the slightly blousy ‘square’ who hilariously experiences her first marijuana high with Bobby and her husband, David (Mark Dickinson).

Carina Waye is suitably ditzy and comical as April, the airline stewardess, and Madeleine McKenzie is warm and luscious as Kathy, another of Bobby’s former lovers.

Although the acting is sometimes uneven and occasionally the group staging feels a little mechanical, the ensemble has fun playing the parade of Robert’s crazy, dysfunctional, addled and argumentative married friends and his quirky girlfriends.

The band is tight under musical director, Lucy O’Brien, and Michael Ralph’s choreography is vivacious and funny throughout, although the solo dance during instrumental, Tick-Tock, cries out for multiple dancers.

If you are a Sondheim fan, you should rush out and see Company with its idiosyncratic music, bevy of bonkers characters and witty but wise reflections on relationships in a modern world.

By Kate Herbert

 frm L clockwise Nelson Gardner,Mark Dickinson,Tim Paige,Nathan Carter,John O'Hara,Nick Simpson-Deeks, Pic Jodie Hutchinson
  L-R Nick Simpson-Deeks Sally Bourne, Nathan Carter; Jodie Hutchinson
Direction: Kat Henry
Musical Director Lucy O’Brien
Choreography by Michael Ralph
Design by Eugyeene Teh, Zoë Rouse & Rob Sowinski.
Nick SimpsonDeeks, Sally Bourne, Gillian Cosgriff, Johanna Allen, Bianca Baykara, Nathan Carter, Mark Dickinson, Nelson Gardner, Madeleine Mackenzie, Nicole Melloy, John O'Hara, Tim Paige, Sonya Suares, Carina Waye.

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