Friday, June 24, 2016
You'll enjoy spending time with Writers Theatre's Company
I love Company, the Tony Award-winning Stephen Sondheim/George Furth musical that opened on Broadway in 1970. It was the first original cast recording that I ever bought, and I still think it's Sondheim's best score (closely followed by Follies). And having such talented actors as Dean Jones, Beth Howland and the legendary Elaine Stritch perform "Being Alive", "Getting Married Today" and "The Ladies Who Lunch" only helped to cement this show's deserved place in history as one of the great American musicals.
I've been lucky enough to see three live productions of Company over the years. The 1995 Broadway revival starring Boyd Gaines, a 1997 Chicago production by Pegasus Players, and the ingenious 2006 Broadway revival with Raúl Esparza and the rest of the cast playing the score with their own instruments. I enjoyed all of them as Company is one of those shows that just makes me happy. And I'm happy to report that Writers Theatre's current production makes for an enjoyable evening as well.
For those who may not be familiar with Company, the show's premise is quite simple - it's Robert's 35th birthday and he's still single and hanging out with all of his married friends (five couples with interesting relationships of their own). Why is he unable to make a serious commitment to anyone? That is the question that this musical attempts to answer.
Director William Brown, whose 2007 WT production of A Little Night Music was sublime, gives us yet another marvelous show - this one filled with biting dark humor and some of the most memorable show tunes ever written. And he has assembled an engaging cast who deliver Furth's witty lines and Sondheim's brilliant music with perfection. I especially liked Blair Robertson's stoned Jenny, Lia Mortensen's hard-drinking, leather-clad Joanne, Jess Godwin's spacey April, and Allison Hendrix's neurotic Amy (whose hilarious rendition of "Getting Married Today" nearly steals the show). But since Company is Robert's story, you do need a charismatic actor to make the audience want to accompany this character on his soul-searching journey. Fortunately, the handsome Thom Miller does an excellent job of filling this important requirement while singing the hell out of Sondheim's score (he also performs an impressive front flip worth seeing).
So if you're part of a couple, I highly recommend seeing this production as one of "the little things you do together". And if you're single, have I got a show for you. Either way, you will enjoy spending time with this Company.
Company runs through July 31 at Writers' Theatre's impressive new theatre center (325 Tudor Court) in Glencoe, Illinois. Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 847-242-6000 or online at www.writerstheatre.org.
The above photo is by Michael Brosilow Photography, and below you can watch an interview with director William Brown and musical clips of "Getting Married Today" and "Side by Side by Side".