BWW Reviews: Playhouse's COMPANY An Odd Mixed Bag
Early on in the first act of Company, the classic Stephen Sondheim musical now playing at The Playhouse, single guy Robert asks his married pal Harry a loaded question: "Are you ever sorry you got married?" Harry smiles and responds with, "You're always sorry. You're always grateful," and continues with several other paradoxical statements. Those puzzling, polarized statements are mirrored throughout the production of Company itself. For every element and performance that hits the mark, there's another that misses it.
Visually, the show is exactly what it should be. Though there's a universal and instantly relatable quality to Sondheim's episodic musical about Robert, his zany married friends, and his three girlfriends, the score and several moments are very 1970s. Rather than ignore that or update it, director Tim Hedgepeth has decided to embrace it. Rose Kennedy's costumes are a polyester blend of retro chic and Alfy Valdez's set of steel platforms and stairs is similar to the original Broadway production's set design by Boris Aronson.
And while the sets and costumes hit the mark, the cast is not quite as consistent. All of the full cast numbers look and sound great, particularly the title song at the top of Act I and "Side by Side by Side" which opens Act II. But after the rousing opening numbers, the show quickly loses steam. It's not as funny as it can or should be, and most of the cast members struggle to make an impact with their characters. There are, of course, some noticeable exceptions. Paige Blend is sweet and funny as Robert's girlfriend, April, a flight attendant who even describes herself as "dumb." Anna Gangai is perfectly cast as the dry, witty, glamorous Joanne, and she brings down the house with her rendition of "Ladies Who Lunch." And Shelly Tarver is a clear audience favorite as Amy. Tarver plays the neurotic bride with cold feet as over-the-top as she can, and the interpretation makes her big number, "Getting Married Today," one of the highlights of the show.
But unfortunately the rest of the cast isn't as solid as the three actresses mentioned above, and that even extends to George Cornelius as Robert. Cornelius has a fantastic voice which makes his numbers thrilling, particularly "Marry Me a Little" and "Being Alive," but he's far less successful in the acting department. Cornelius doesn't connect with any of the other actors on stage with him, and he lacks the charisma and charm that Robert needs to have. Without that, the central character of Company is largely forgettable.
Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
COMPANY plays The Playhouse at 800 West Ashby Place, San Antonio, 78212 now thru Sunday, Marc 2nd. Performances are Saturday 3/1 at 8pm and Sunday 3/2 at 3pm and 8pm. Tickets are $10-$25. For tickets and information, visit www.theplayhousesa.org.