BWW Preview: DARK COMEDY MUSICAL COMPANY DEBUTS JUNE 15 at mad Theatre
When asked to describe mad Theatre's newest production of Stephen Sondheim's musical, COMPANY in just three words, Director Donald B. Holt, Jr. hesitated only for a moment - "timeless, innovative, and challenging."
"This is probably one of the first times a musical was told in random vignettes," Director Anthony Paul Gilkinson explained. "The story doesn't follow a true linear path from beginning, middle to end. It challenges the audience to fill in the blanks and connect all the seams - how it impacts them."
Winner of 7 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Lyrics and Best Book, COMPANY tells the story of Robert, on the eve of his 35th birthday, who contemplates his bachelorhood while his married friends proceed to explain the pros versus cons of taking on a spouse.
Opening June 15, produced by board member Cathy Hooten, COMPANY features a 7-member orchestra and a cast of 14. Half are returning to the theatre's stage and half are making their mad Theatre debut.
"COMPANY allowed us to have a diverse group of actors. We've been very fortunate when we cast this show to get very seasoned individuals to join. Some of the new people in the cast have been around the Tampa Bay area in various shows for years and this is their first time with mad Theatre, so we feel very blessed to have them. For some, this is their first show since they moved to the area - so they are making their Tampa Bay debut with our show," said Anthony.
Donald added, "One of my favorite things about the Tampa community is we have so many different theatres. In this particular cast, we have people who have performed with Eight O'Clock, Carrollwood Players, Francis Wilson, and Manatee Players. I love the fact that we have the ability to share the wealth of talent we have in the area."
Starring Ricky Marenda, Justin Batten, Peter A. Belk, Kelsey Ehrenberger, Francesca Guanciale Jay, Jen Martin, DeAnna McMahan, Heather Lynn Mendoza, Jay Morgan, Jessica Moraton, Lisa Prieto, Bill Rolon, James Faroute and Lindsay Yarbrough, whether you are single or married, you may just see a part of yourself on stage in the newest dark comedy musical.
Musical Director Deborah D. Lynch said, "The singers exceeded my expectations. It sounds like they've been studying voice for years. I think the audience will be very excited to hear the singers and the musicians as a package."
Her favorite up-tempo number features the trio of Lindsay Yarbrough, Kelsey Ehrenberger, and Jessica Moraton singing a fun number called "You Could Drive a Person Crazy."
"In terms of something soft and gentle, "Marry Me a Little" performed by Ricky Marenda is probably my favorite," she said.
Anthony's favorite scene features the characters of Amy and Paul. "Lisa Prieto is amazing in this number," he said. "She just knocks it out of the park. That scene and the one after are my favorites."
While Donald enjoyed the comic genius of actress Heather Lynn Mendoza's initiation into pot smoking, they all agreed that every vignette was important and had its own sense of charm.
"Especially for those that are new in the mad Theatre audience, I am always humbled by the comments about the professionalism of a community theatre like ours. We love our Straz address, but many times people ask us if we are a professional or touring show," said Anthony. "I really hope they come away with a high level of respect of what community theatre does for the Tampa Bay area. I hope they walk away and give word of mouth about the amazing productions that come out of community theatre."
mad Theatre is performing in Shimberg Playhouse at David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N Macinnes Pl, Tampa, FL 33602. COMPANY runs June 15 through July 2 with performances Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 and are available on the Straz website at http://www.strazcenter.org/Events/Straz/Shows/Rentals/mad-Theatre-presents-Company.