BWW Reviews: Theatre20's 'COMPANY' Hits Most of the Right Notes
Theatre20's much anticipated production of COMPANY is now playing at the Berkeley Street Threatre in downtown Toronto, and the production - which opened on June 27 hits most of the right notes, but I found it to be lacking the finesse it needed to be the first class production it had the potential to be.
The story should be a familiar one to many - a man in his mid thirties with commitment issues struggling to find meaning in his life. The plot is so standard, in fact, it's practically a cliché. In COMPANY, however, the single lifestyle is scrutinized under a microscope in a series of scenes focusing on the the protagonist, Bobby, and his interactions with his coupled friends. Bobby even quotes Socrates at one point, stating that "the unexamined life is not worth living."
The book and score are brilliant - and no one can deny that Stephen Sondheim (music/lyrics) and George Furth (book) had crafted an instant classic and a masterpiece when the musical premiered on Broadway in 1970 (although the production did receive it's share of mixed reviews.)
It was previously reported that this production lost it's director, Gary Griffin, during the rehearsal process due to injury - and it shows on stage. The performances from the company of COMPANY range from outstanding to average at best.
The highlight of the evening was, as I predicted, Louis Pitre's (Joanne) breathtaking rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch." Pitre performs the number with a laser focus, in a manner very reminiscent of Elaine Stritch (the original Joanne in COMPANY) and yet highly original.
Nora McLellan as Sarah is fun and quirky - and her comedic timing during banter (and battle) with her stage husband - Harry, played by Brent Carver is uncanny. Nia Vardalos shines on stage as Jenny - the mom who gets stoned with her husband and single friend. She plays the role with an innocence which is refreshing among all of the other intense performances.
Carly Street (Amy) gave an exceptional performance during one of the funniest and most touching moments in the show - during a number titled "Not Getting Married Today."
My biggest problem with this production was not always being able to hear what was being said on stage. This was mainly an issue with Dan Chameroy (Bobby) - who's voice did not project as well as his other cast members. The problem was most apparent during the softer moments in the score.
Orchestrations for the production are credited to Jonathan Tunick, but the band of four couldn't possibly be playing the original orchestration (23 musicians) or the authorized reduction (15 musicians). The sound does fill the small Berkeley Street Theatre space, but I missed the nuances and flourishes of the original orchestration.
This production of COMPANY was thoroughly entertaining and should not be missed! Fans of Sondheim or musical theatre will enjoy the score and story - and fans of good drama will enjoy watching life being examined through a unique perspective of single life.
Tickets are now on sale. Visit theatre20.com for more information.