Company. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by George Furth. Directed by Jordan Best. Musical director Tim Hansen. Choreography by James Batchelor. Everyman Theatre. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. Until October 24. Bookings:theq.net.au.
Company is a strange, almost plotless musical about love and marriage in New York but the cast of Everyman Theatre's production carries it off with elan. It's like spending an afternoon with a pile of New Yorker magazines, full of short snippets on the city's life and all those enigmatic cartoons about modern life.
At its centre is Bobby (Jarrad West), turning 35 and still unmarried. Around him are his married friends, all seemingly settled and pushing for him to be settled too. Circling are various not altogether promising girlfriends; April (Amy Dunham), a fly-in-fly-out airline attendant who sees herself as stupid, Marta (Vanessa de Jager) who seems more excited by the pulse of the city than by Bobby and Kathy (Michelle Norris), who, tired of waiting, looks like heading off to marry someone else.
The seemingly settled couples certainly unsettle Bobby's views on marriage when they start to reveal the kinks in their relationships. Sarah (Jordan Best) and Harry (Will Huang) are held together by knowledge of each other's addictions and by karate battles, David (Max Gambale) and Jenny (Helen McFarlane) smoke much pot and Peter (Tim Sekuless) and Susan (Philippa Murphy) stay together happily despite divorcing. Joanne (Karen Vickery) is into serial marriages for money, the latest of which is the rather miserable-looking Larry (Jerry Hearn).
Then there's Amy (Laura Dawson), on the brink of marriage to Paul (Riley Bell), declaring in a showstopper of a number that she is backing out of the ceremony and the whole deal.
No wonder West's cheerfully single Bobby has reasons to recoil, especially after he is propositioned by a rather sad Peter and a somewhat predatory Joanne. But he also is increasingly sensitive to the possibility of ending up without the "company" that the show seems to feel is more important than the quirks and difficulties of relationships.
All of this barrels along at speed under Jordan Best's expert and sensitive direction on a sparse set by Michael Sparks that is full of suspended white frames lit with feeling by Kelly McGannon. Sometimes these feel like apartment windows, at other times like picture frames, freezing and idealising the relationships.
Mostly the delivery of music and song under musical director Tim Hansen is spot on although occasionally the speed in the songs muffles the diction, especially important when the lyrics are those of Stephen Sondheim.
However, the large cast does an excellent job. Vickery is an impressively sardonic Joanne, especially in the key number The Ladies Who Lunch, where the "busy" lives of rich women are described with some irony. Dawson's marriage-phobic Amy has a great line in hysterical tension. De Jager's Marta is a restless describer of the city in Another Hundred People as she watches those drawn in by its energy. Best and Huang make a splendidly funny pair straight out of the cartoons of James Thurber as they spar in slow karate moves.
With a sensitive and assured performance from West leading the cast as Bobby, this is a show not to be missed.
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