When you're launching a musical about the lives and loves of affluent New Yorkers, what better place to kick it off in Canberra than the Kingston Foreshore?
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's apartment building doubled for a Manhattan complex on the Hudson River in New York when the Everyman Theatre-Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre production of Company directed by Jordan Best had a preview. The concept musical, with scenes and vignettes and songs taking the place of a more conventional narrative, won seven Tony Awards including best musical.
Cast members performed composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim's title number and Vanessa de Jager tackled the driving, tricky Another Hundred People on a balcony overlooking Lake Burley Griffin.
The 1971 Broadway musical Company, with book by George Furth, is about Bobby (played by Jarrad West), who's turning 35 and is still single and unable to commit to a relationship; the various couples who are his best friends; and his three girlfriends.
One of those girlfriends, Kathy, is being played in this production by Michelle Norris.
Norris said, "She's a small-town girl who came to New York to find somebody and is just about ready to leave."
Kathy and Bobby have been dating on and off for a few years but he is afraid of commitment and in her dance number Tick-Tock, choreographed by former QL2 dancer James Batchelor, she expresses some of her feelings.
"It's quite a contemporary take on it."
Norris had never appeared in a Sondheim show ( apart from West Side Story, where he only wrote the lyrics, not the music) and said all her preconceptions – "difficult to learn, a lot of work, lyrics all over the place" – proved to be true but she was up for the challenge.
Among the couples in the show are Peter and Susan, played by Tim Sekuless and Pip Murphy. On the surface they appear to be the perfect couple but it soon becomes clear that all is not as rosy as it appears.
Both said the show is funny and entertaining with lots of good songs and a talented Canberra cast. Murphy said, "We've had two Sondheim shows in a row. Into the Woods is very different from this – it shows off Sondheim musically. Company is so relevant to now and to any time, anyone could come to it."
Sekuless said, "It's a fantastic show for Canberra audiences because even today it's really modern ... Sondheim was ahead of his time."
The show's creators have rewritten and updated it over the years – and Sekuless said each couple in the show illustrated aspects of relationships that didn't work, but also that despite the problems and the lack of perfection relationships were still worth having. The question is whether Bobby will find this out for himself, and whether he will agree.
Company is on at the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre from October 16 to 24. Bookings: theq.net.au.
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