BWW REVIEW: Side by Side by Side: Oklahoma City University presents Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY
Jess here. If you've read any of my previous posts, you know that I have a "slight" obsession with the work of composer/lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, so when I found out that Oklahoma City University's Department of Musical Theatre was presenting "Company" (one of his finest shows) I couldn't curtail my enthusiasm. For months. Now that I've finally gotten to see the production, I'm able to justifiably gush about the beauty of the show, the cast, and all the intricate details in between. In short, it was absolutely incredible.
The Tony Award winning musical "Company" was inspired by a collection of one-act plays exploring marriage, and centers around Robert (Bobby), a 35-year-old bachelor who is actively dating three women. His brief consideration of choosing just one and settling down is made difficult by his observations of the lives of the five married couples who are his best friends, thereby leaving him undecided as to whether or not he should join their ranks.
I usually discuss the directing elements associated with a production at the end of my posts, but I felt that the directorial excellence of OCU alum, Brian Cowing, was deserving of immense praise up-front. Cowing's idea to portray Bobby as a photographer provided a wonderful layer to the show's plot. This vision lead to a black-and-white theme, which translated very well to the audience. His casting was spot on, and the creativity of it all clearly backed the storyline.
The complexity of Bobby is incredibly difficult to grasp, thus leaving audience members ultimately wondering if Bobby is evading marriage, or if conversely, marriage is evading Bobby. Many roles were double cast in this production, and the distinction between the two Bobby's, in particular, were complex and very interesting. Both were vocally excellent, but Hayden Gray's portrayal of Bobby seemed to be aimed at eluding marriage, whereas Peyton Schoenhofer's representation showed Bobby as being avoided by marriage. Neither of these interpretations are incorrect, and each deserves praise for being founded in strong and distinct character choices.
The staging of "Company" played out in several different vignettes, with the first segment featuring Casey Andrews (Harry) and Megan Carpenter/ Michelle McChristian (Sarah). The comedic excellence of these actors immediately engaged the audience with the scene being capped off by an unexpectedly hilarious karate sequence. Jack Boyd (Peter) and Carley Dickey/ Caroline Purdy (Susan) also did a fantastic job of portraying the humor in their scenario. The soon-to-be divorcees both entertained, and confused the audience with their characters' utter excitement about splitting up.
My favorite vignette of the entire production has to be the segment featuring Collin O'Neil (David) and Amanda Dolph/Celia Tedde (Jenny). The actors' ability to establish immense tension throughout the act really set the tone, with the backdrop of a drug clouded confession from David to Bobby revealing his true thoughts regarding his wife. This really defined the semi-dark feeling of the show. The remarkable acting delivered in this scene was highly effective in conveying the not-so-perfect aspects that surround some relationships. The vocal perfection of Celia Tedde is also worthy of praise, and her solo in the spot shared between the soon-to-be wed couple, Paul and Amy, was nothing short of delightful.
Of specific mention; Amy was well represented by the stellar performances of Morgan Haney and Janna Schmid. The ladies each masterfully conquered one of musical theatres' most demanding tongue twisters, "Not Getting Married Today." The difficulty of not only the song, but of the character herself paled in comparison to the level of talent delivered by these two women. The naivety of Amy's fiancé, Paul (Graydon McNally) also worked very well when dealing with the high-anxiety of the ladies.
Other phenomenal performances included Madeline Dannenberg and Caroline Hawthorne's interpretations of the iconic role of Joanne. The bitter realism of the character was perfectly exemplified by Dannenberg and Hawthorne during the famous song "The Ladies Who Lunch" with stunning vocal precision and theatrical brilliance. Their disdain for husband, Larry (Harrison Langford) was compelling and eye-opening as to the true realities that lay in The Shadows of some marriages.
The cast as a whole was vocally tight. The harmonies of the ensemble were beautiful, especially in the number "Side by Side by Side" thanks to Music Director Charles Koslowske. Well-honed vocal prowess was also apparent in the trio between April, Kathy and Marta; Nicole Cordle/ Ali Funkhauser (April), Gabriella Ottersberg/ Natalya Ferch (Kathy), and Katherine Metcalfe/ Isabella Gonzalez (Marta). All were perfectly tuned during their number, and additionally demonstrated brilliant acting when involved in their individual scenes with Bobby.
If I could pay to see this show again, I definitely would. It was so incredible to see such professionalism and talent on stage, and I'm sure Mr Sondheim would be proud of the work delivered by OCU's production team in their presentation of his Tony Award winning masterpiece. I congratulate each and every member of the cast and crew for a fantastic show, and thank the Wanda L. Bass School of Music for sharing such an iconic work with the Oklahoma City community.
"Everything's different, nothing's changed. Only maybe slightly rearranged." -Stephen Sondheim