BWW Reviews: Austin Theatre Project's COMPANY a Thrilling Production of a Sondheim Classic
To borrow from my favorite boozing broad, I'd like to propose a toast: To Austin Theatre Project. With their production of Company, ATP shows once again why they are a new theater company to watch. By tackling Stephen Sondheim's beloved show about the ups and downs of both marriage and bachelorhood, ATP once again showcases their ability to tell a story and entertain.
Barbara Schuler's unassuming direction and Jim Schuler's modest set place the focus exactly where it should be, on Bobby and his "good and crazy" married friends. Given the outstanding talent of the 14 person cast, wouldn't you do the same?
As Bobby, Andrew Bosworth displays the same leading man showmanship that he showed in last year's production of Falsettos. He's charismatic, charming, and more than a tad aloof. There's no doubt why the zany characters around him would be so drawn to his magnetic personality, and his voice is absolutely superb. While the rest of the cast is fantastic, there are a few memorable stand-outs. Kate Clark and Kirk Kelso are wickedly funny as Sarah and Harry, a married couple with their share of vices that they try in vain to keep at bay. The beautiful Evelyn LaLonde is ridiculously funny as Jenny, particularly in one moment that finds her smoking marijuana for the first time (Imagine a blonde Zooey Deschanel smoking weed, and you get the idea). She also gets a chance to show off her strong soprano voice in the comical "Not Getting Married Today." With the character of Joanne, the aforementioned boozing broad, Michelle Cheney has a character well within her wheelhouse. Her take on the glamorous dame with an acerbic, biting wit is just as strong as the many Broadway divas who have played her. But it's Kimberley Wilson as one of Bobby's three girlfriends who steals the show. As the ditzy but loveable April, Wilson shines. Her comedic timing is impeccable, and every moment she has on stage gets laugh after laugh.
Also worthy of note are the orchestra, under the direction of David Blackburn, and Meghan Bowman's choreography. The orchestra sounds fantastic, and the fact that their mostly high school students is mind-blowing. As any musical theater aficionado knows, Sondheim's music is notoriously challenging, and these kids handle it like the true pros that they are. Bowman's choreography is similarly impressive, particularly in the circus-inspired Act II opener and the solo dance number, "Tick Tock," another notoriously hard (and often cut) element of Company.
If you're single, married, or undecided, this production of Company is a must see. Austin Theatre Project's commitment to excellence shows in every aspect of the production, and it makes one eager to see what else they have in store for the season.
I'll drink to that.
COMPANY, produced by Austin Theatre Project, plays the Dougherty Arts Center now thru Sunday, April 27th. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $18-$31.50. For tickets and information, please visit www.austintheatreproject.org