Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: COMPANY at MNM Productions

BWW Review: COMPANY at MNM ProductionsMNM Productions presents the musical Company featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth.

The journey of the musical Company is as complex as the journey of its leading character, Bobby. Originally titled Threes, the musical Company opened on Broadway on April 26, 1970, at the Alvin Theatre. The 1970 production ran for 705 performances, and received six Tony Awards. In the early 1990s, Furth and Sondheim revised the libretto, cutting and altering dialogue that had become dated, and rewriting the end of act one. A Roundabout Theatre revival, featuring these changes, opened on October 5, 1995, at the Criterion Center Stage Right. There the 1995 production ran for 60 performances. A Kennedy Center production of Company opened on May 17, 2002, for a 17-performance run. This production used the script of the original 1970 version, rather than the 1995 revival script, and set the show again back in the 1970s.

Another revival of Company, directed and choreographed by John Doyle opened Broadway on November 29, 2006, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. As in Doyle's 2005 Broadway production of Sweeney Todd, the actors themselves provided all their own orchestral accompaniment. The musical closed on July 1, 2007 after 246 performances, and received a tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. In April 2011, Lonny Price directed a staged, concert production of Company with Neil Patrick Harris as Robert. Paul Gemignani conducted a 35-piece orchestra, which uses similar orchestrations to the first Broadway production, but contained the script revisions from the 1995 version. Most current producers of the musical Company use this latest version. The lengthy history of the show becomes relevant in understanding what it is the audience is seeing with this MNM Production version of Company, as compared to what version(s) they may have seen in the past.

The plot revolves around a single man named Bobby, living in New York City. On the eve of his 35th birthday he is faced with a hard look at his life, and his inability to commit fully to a steady relationship, let alone marriage. And marriage, in its many forms, is what he sees reflected all around him in the lives of his best friends - who are five sets of married couples. It is also a subject he feels creeping up on him amidst his escapades with his current three girlfriends. The script does not follow a clear chronological order of events. Rather it uses a related series of events all tied together by Bobby's birthday party, and that moment in time when he is called upon to make a wish before blowing out the candles on his birthday cake. As he reflects upon his life, the question becomes what Bobby will wish for.

Robert William Johnston looks a bit young to be playing the role of Bobby, but after all there is a line in the script that says "we keep getting older, and he still looks the same", so we can accept that a metrosexual Bobby has perhaps availed himself of a gym membership and botox to keep competitive with his bed-hopping peers. Johnston is handsome and charming, with a ready smile, that makes it easy to understand why he attracts the women and friends around him. This role is too often done as pensive and introspective right from the top of the show. While those moments need to exist for there to be a character arc, if Bobby was like that all the time, who would want to be around him? Johnston also does well at connecting with each one of the sets of couples on some level. True, he does not quite have the vocal depth and maturity as a singer to flesh out the role musically. This is obvious in his big number "Being Alive". But what he offers instead in that song through his acting, is the urgency behind the realization of what that song means. His Bobby goes a little too quickly from happy-go-lucky to that moment, but he does welcome his emotional epiphany with the way he sings that climatic musical moment. With a little vocal finessing, this is a role Johnston will grow into beautifully within a few years.

Girlfriend #1: Nicole Kinzel is adorable as the flighty (no pun intended) flight attendant April. Sweetly smiling and terribly naïve, she has a lovely stage presence. Girlfriend #2: Mallory Newbrough is awesome as the edgy Marta. While she sings "Another Hundred People" well, it's her scene work that is outstanding. She builds an interesting, artsy, anti-establishment character that is refreshingly different. Girlfriend #3: Jinon Deeb gets a bit short-changed on stage time as Kathy as he number "Tick-Tock" is cut. We never really get to know her, and her character is nondescript. This is awkward when paired with Kathy's announcement that she's leaving to get married, as we have no frame of reference for her, or her relationship with Bobby.

Married couple Sarah (Laura Hodos) and Harry (Wayne LeGette) are wonderful as they negotiate their way through his drinking issues and her over-eating issues - with a little karate demonstration for their house guest Bobby thrown in for good luck. They are obviously experienced and polished performers, who establish a comfortable familiarity with one another as a believable married couple. Alas Hodos is plagued with microphone issues throughout the show.

Married couple Jenny (Lindsey Corey) and David (Joshua McKinney) don't really take full advantage of their scenes to paint their characters as largely as they could. I never really got a feel for McKinney's character, and didn't buy Corey as square and/or reserved.

Larry Alexander and Erika Scotti are our older couple, Larry and the many times married Joanne. While a dashing Alexander is fine as the patient husband of the sharp-tongued Joanne, it is Scotti who gives one of the best performances in the shoW. Scotti wraps herself with gusto around the moneyed and bitter character of Joanne, ever with a biting remark and a vodka stinger in hand. Her song "The Ladies Who Lunch" and second act scene with Bobby are two of the best acted highlights of the evening.

Our couple getting a divorce, Susan and Peter, are played by Amy Miller Brennan and Clay Cartland. Brennan has a warm, sweet presence that works nicely for our Southern bell Susan. Cartland comes off well as a high-strung Wall-Street type. Here is where one of the script edits that has happened along the way comes in. In the second act of the original script, Peter asks Bobby if he's ever had a sexual experience with another man, (Bobby says yes) and Peter suggests that perhaps he and Bobby could explore that together. This omission bothers me. The point is that Bobby is offered many choices before making his birthday wish. I won't give them all away, but it is too important as one of those potential choices to omit. Peter's exploration of his potential homosexuality also offers some explanation as to why the couple may be getting divorced.

Our last couple is Amy (Leah Sessa) and Paul (Josh Kolb), who are engaged to be married. Sessa is sensational as the goofy, neurotic Amy. She truly becomes the quintessential Amy when she sings "Getting Married Today". She is funny and heart warming, and proceeds unafraid of the physical comedy inherent to this version of the piece. Unfortunately Kolb is overshadowed by her by comparison, and was a tad bland in both his singing and acting. Cudos to Sessa as she is the only actress I have seen that has sung this song true to the incredibly brisk tempo at which it was originally done!

Graced with a slick set, and a live, five-piece band, this production of Company has just a few low spots amidst a solid, enjoyably performed, well played and well directed performance of this Sondheim classic. Of the three Sondheim musicals currently being offered simultaneously in SoFlo, this would be my top recommendation.

Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim was born on March 22, 1930. He has been described as "the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American musical theatre." In addition to Company his work includes the musicals A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sweeney Todd, Do I Hear a Waltz?, Follies, Pacific Overtures, Anyone Can Whistle, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods, Sunday In The Park With George, A Little Night Music, Passion and Assassins. He also wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy. He is the recipient of seven Tony Awards (more than any other composer), two Grammy Awards, the 1990 Academy Award for Best Song for "Sooner or Later" from Dick Tracy, the 1985 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Sunday In the Park With George, the Kennedy Center Honors for Lifetime Achievement in 1993 and a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in 2008.

MNM Productions' Company is the latest venture by theatrical producers and arts consultants Marcie Gorman-Althof and Michael Lifshitz. Company is their sixth major musical following A Chorus Line, Side By Side By Sondheim, Hair, The World Goes 'Round and, most recently, Monty Python's Spamalot.

MNM Productions' Company will be appearing at the Marshall E. Rinker Playhouse of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts through August 6, 2017. The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is located at 701 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach, FL. For tickets and information you may contact them by phone at 561-832-7469, (561-832-SHOW), or 1-800-572-8471 or online at www.kravis.org.

Cast:

Robert: Robert William Johnston*

Sarah: Laura Hodos*

Harry: Wayne LeGette*

Susan: Amy Miller Brennan*

Peter: Clay Cartland

Jenny: Lindsey Corey*

David: Joshua McKinney

Amy: Leah Sessa

Paul: Josh Kolb

Joanne: Erika Scotti*

Larry: Larry Alexander*

Marta: Mallory Newbrough

Kathy: Jinon Deeb

April: Nicole Kinzel

Crew:

Director: Bruce Linzer

Musical Director: Paul Reekie

Choreography: Kimberly Dawn Smith

Scenic Design: Tim Bennett

Lighting Design: Jayson Tomasheski

Sound Design: Justin Thompson

Costume Design: Linda Shorrock and Leslye Menshouse

Production Stage Manager: Mikel Gambuto*

*Indicates member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage mangers in the United States

Pic: Mallory Newbrough, Robert Johnston, Nicole Kinzel, Jinon Deeb

Photo Credit: Matthew A Bueno


Related Articles View More Palm Beach Stories   Shows

From This Author John Lariviere