BWW Reviews: COMPANY at Tennessee Repertory Theatre
The joy of seeing a musical with the name "Sondheim" attached is that those who know very little about musical theatre will still recognize the name. So when I heard that Tennessee Repertory Theatre was doing a production of Company to end their season, I was overjoyed. Company has been a favorite musical of mine of years, and my favorite Sondheim musical since the first time I saw a production of the show. After all, nothing beats a good Sondheim, right?
Originally produced in the 1970s, Company is set in New York City. We are taken on a journey with Robert, our protagonist, as he navigates life as a bachelor who has a host of married friends, and several girlfriends. Part of the charm of Company, is that while it has some parts of the book, written by George Furth, that hint to the time period in which it was originally produced, unless you knew the background, there is very little to "date" the show. The themes and the storyline of Company are universal to so many people, and they haven't changed in spite of the passage of time.
Another interesting thing about the storyline in Company is that it's told in a non-linear fashion. Basically, it doesn't run start to finish. Yet it makes complete sense. At the beginning, we are at Robert's birthday party. We come back to that birthday party several times. In between, we see little snippets of Robert's life and his interaction with his married friends and girlfriends. It ties together nicely, since we see little pieces of Robert's bigger, overall journey.
The staging and set design of this production were spectacular. Lighting Designer Phillip Franck, and Scenic Designer Gary C. Hoff managed to make a simple and modern design that still gave homage to days gone by. The band is on stage with the cast. Music Director and Conductor Timothy Fudge, manages to become another cast member of the show without distracting the audience or seeming out of place. It's a wonderful addition to the overall feel of the show. Several cabaret tables have been set up in Johnson Theater at TPAC to give the show a more intimate feel, and creating an interesting part of the set.
Patrick Waller captures the many sides of Robert's character with ease. There are so many emotional stages that the character of Robert goes through during the show. Sometimes it's disinterest, other times it's a casual interest in what it's like to be married. At times he seems to be only out for fun, other times the character is so deep in though and serious that you're sure he must have so much more going on inside his head that is said or sung. Waller manages to capture all of these emotions in such a way that your heart aches for him a little.
Some other standouts in the cast include the lovely Melissa Hammans as Kathy, the "one who got away." The touching scene between Kathy and Robert showed much depth for the characters, and had me nearly in tears by the end. Megan Murphy-Chambers plays the slightly neurotic, but sweet Amy. When we see Robert and Amy interact, it's on the wedding day of Amy and Paul. Paul, played by Jeff Boyet, is calm and collected, while Amy is having a breakdown. Her "Getting Married Today" was the comical highlight of the show for me.
Jenny and David, played by Nancy Allen and Chris Simonsen, also had a wonderful scene with Robert, which showed a truly touching part of being married. David and Jenny present Robert with something else to think about when David shows how well he knows his wife. Simonsen was so heartfelt in his portrayal of David; in spite of what she presents, David knows her well enough to know the truth behind her façade.
I'd also like to give a nod to Martha Wilkinson as the jaded Joanne, as well as Mia Rose Lynne who played the ditzy April. Both were definite high points in the show, especially Wilkinson's "Ladies Who Lunch" in the second act. I'd like to mention everyone in the cast, since the entire group was incredibly talented and spot on in their performances, but we'd be here all day if I kept going.
Company is the kind of show that married people will love (they'll see themselves at every turn) and single people will understand (who hasn't watched their married friends with curiosity and wonder?). If you're a lover of the musical, but desire a more contemporary storyline, Company is for you. You can still catch Company on stage at Tennessee Repertory Theatre through April 12th. You can order tickets online or by calling the box office at 1-877-216-7540.