BWW Review: COMPANY at Te Auaha
Company, is a bold, seminal musical that premiered on Broadway in 1970. Brief vignettes (by George Furth) and dazzling songs (Stephen Sondheim) are flashes of insight into the life of commitment-phobic, Manhattan bachelor, Bobby as he listens to advice from his married friends while struggling with his fear of both long-term relationships and the possibility of ending up on his own.
Fynn Bodley-Davies is well cast as protagonist, Robert. His beautiful smooth tone and pitch-perfect delivery make him ideal for the intricate rhythms, chord structures and tricksy enunciation characteristic of Sondheim's work. Highlights are "Marry Me a Little" and an emotional rendition of "Being Alive".
The set is simple and well-spaced to allow the ensemble to move naturally. Adept harmonies and pleasing chorus numbers are supported by Katty Lau's pert poses and clever choreography such as the chair dancing and Folliesque "What Would We Do Without You?". Sound is always troublesome at Te Auaha depending on where you are seated and lighting design was a little clunky and noticeable in the focusing. Shawn Condon led an excellent band but the drums could have been dampened slightly for those of us sitting higher up in the audience.
It is Sondheim's genius that takes Company to the next level and the show can boast at least half a dozen of his defining numbers such as "The Ladies Who Lunch" (an aggressively tipsy Helena Savage who reeks of post-marital decline and loss) and "Getting Married Today" (a snappily anxious and articulate Stacey O'Brien) but there is a feeling that the themes around traditional marriage are somewhat out-dated, hence the recent gender reversal in the show's successful 2018 revival on the West End.
In terms of characterisation, there were varying degrees of success and some of the relationship dynamics and subtext had not been investigated in enough detail. More could also have been made of the costumes to depict what was, in fashionable terms, a quirky and fun era.
Renee Iosefa brought a likeability to her sweet, "dumb", flight attendant April while Mike Bryant created an empathetic and believable Larry, particularly when talking about his wife, Joanne. Margaret Hill was suitably smug as the food-fixated Sarah, David Bowers-Mason commanded in "Have I Got a Girl For You" and Catherine Gavigan-Binnie displayed her impressive vocals and Jenny's naivety with assurance as she tried getting stoned for the first time.
It was, however, Cassandra Tse's natural, energetic and convincing performance of the free-spirited Marta and her dynamic delivery of "Another Hundred People" that allowed the audience to relax into a direct and secure connection with the performer.
Company can be defined as; a visiting person or group, the condition of being with others in a way that provides friendship and enjoyment, a person regarded as pleasant (or unpleasant) to be with or, a group of actors, singers or dancers who perform together.
Furth and Sondheim touch on all of these definitions throughout the musical and whether Bobby's journey on the road to long-term commitment in 1970 is still relevant today or not, it is still an insightful commentary on love, relationships and our inherent need for social interaction and the company of others.
At Te Auaha, Wellington until 21 December 2019
Director: Jessie Cooper
Musical Director: Shawn Condon
Choreographer: Katty Lau
Reviewed by Lindsey Rusling