Review: Keep ‘Company’ with entertaining musical theater
March 6, 2014
Want a comic but poignant musical snapshot of varied views of commitment, marriage and bachelorhood? Then go see Sierra Stages' engaging, lively and well-done production of Stephen Sondheim's musical comedy "Company," currently entertaining at the Nevada Theatre.
The show premiered in 1970 but continues to resonate because of its illumination of the omnipresent "challenge of maintaining relations in a society becoming increasingly depersonalized," according to Sondheim, from his memoir, "Finishing the Hat." Apparently, avoidance of commitment and difficulty with relationships aren't much different now than in 1970, even though that was long before everyone became mesmerized by their electronic devices.
The show was nominated for 14 Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical. It's been revived on Broadway and elsewhere numerous times, testimony to the delightfulness of its music, its clever, funny and profound lyrics and the continuing relevance of the issues it addresses. You will probably recognize some of the songs, even if you didn't know they were from this show.
The story line follows Bobby, a 35-year-old bachelor surrounded by his adoring but dysfunctional friends — five couples who all want a piece of him — along with the three women he is dating. Everyone has "loving" advice for Bobby since it's easier to see his limitations rather than their own. The series of interwoven vignettes are presented in a non-linear time frame by what might be either Bobby's internal thoughts and remembrances or current actual happenings — that interpretation is up to you — as he grapples with the meanings of commitment and marriage.
Director Jac Royce creatively and fluidly moves her actors around, across and up and down the wonderful looking and very functional three level set, creating continual spatial and visual interest. Mike Edwards' clever use of metal scaffolding in his set design gives it an industrial high rise apartment feel, complete with cubicles furnished with a bed or a couch or a bar with stools, but also allowing room for eight members of the live band, along with four singers tucked unseen behind the scaffolding, all superbly led by Musical Director Ken Getz on keyboards. And Edwards' marvelous stage-width wooden cutout of the New York skyline adroitly evokes the locale.
Each cast member of the tight ensemble, led by an appealing JR Lewis as the emotionally bewildered Bobby, skillfully conveys his or her character through both action and song. Sondheim's lyrics are worth listening to, often quite clever and unexpected, and his music is tuneful while technically difficult. So when singers perform Sondheim well, they deserve praise, and this ensemble performed well. Special kudos to Tinley Ireland, who sings "(Not) Getting Married Today," containing more words per second than seemingly possible to enunciate, but she does so admirably. And while it's great for known talent to be on stage, it is very nice to see several faces new to Nevada County theater.
If you want to enjoy a well-performed, at times laugh-out-loud funny, thoughtful, quality musical, treat yourself to a performance of "Company," continuing at the Nevada Theatre through March 23.
Hindi Greenberg did lighting and makeup for a production of "Company," in San Francisco, back in the dark ages. She likes this current production much better, especially since she can sit out front and enjoy it rather than worry about it.
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