Company Steals Shows 1

Company Steals the Show At Woods Theatre

With immense style and musicality, Stephen Sondheim And George Furth’s Company visits Woods Theatre this season on Nov. 20-24, 2019, with past dates of Nov. 15-17.

Presented by the Monmouth University Department of Music and Theatre, Company’s direction comes from Sheri Anderson, musical direction from Michael Gilch, and choreography from Bob Boross. The comedy’s music and lyrics were crafted by Sondheim, with a book by Furth.

Famed theatrical producer Harold Prince, known as the “Prince of Broadway,” originally produced and directed Company on Broadway, with its first performance on April 26, 1970.

Company revolves around the experiences of Robert, played by Joe Marano, a charming and ever-giving bachelor and his ten closest friends: five married couples. They always need him, and he is consistently there to provide support in every way. That said, Robert has never been married and starts to question his reasonings as more people inquire.

Stemming from the 35th birthday surprise party held by the couples for Robert (or “Bobby,” “Bob,” “Bobby baby,” “Bobby bubby,” etc.), Company is comprised of vignettes about the man, his friends, and his three, very different girlfriends. Love, sex, marriage, divorce, and friendship are the hot topics of the show, conveyed humorously but with a great heart.

Known to be one of the first Broadway musicals to highlight the dark and light sides of real adult relationships, Company was a groundbreaking work. The Sondheim-Furth show was nominated for fourteen Tony Awards in its original run, taking home six of those awards.

Company Steals Shows 2After experiencing Monmouth’s production (my first experience with the show), I can understand why Company was such a hit.

The first eye-catching element of the University’s Company was the set, conceptualized by Fred DelGuercio. Woods Theatre has a thrust stage, with audience members on all sides except the back wall. This staging format makes for a perfect level of immersion for the audience, as players are commonly very close to those sitting, and can interact with audience members directly if desired.

Onstage, the scene was minimalistic, with four dark, rectangular tables accented with glowing candles. A personal bar sat upstage right. Tall, lit panels (some with music notes on them) lined the back wall and would shift in color depending on the scene; the lighting generally set at a cool blue akin to the Playbill’s cover. The tables were easily moveable depending on the setting: apartments, balconies, a club, and a park included.

The incredible band, comprised of a pianist, an upright bassist, and a drummer, sat upstage center. The musical direction always kept true to Company’s jazzy and heartfelt sound. The score is immensely layered yet executed well with a three-piece band.

The entire set design, paired with stellar lighting design by David Landau, fit a fresh and sophisticated NYC setting (with a nod to the colorfully-mod 70’s).

The cast of the show indeed performed with the spirit of the older roles they embodied. All actors were necessary for vocally and emotionally supporting the show, and they did so in unique and powerful ways; there were 18 cast members in total, with 14 main and supporting roles aside four featured dancers.

One stand-out comedic moment included feisty couple Harry, played by Tom Lynskey, and Sarah, played by Kat Fernandez, continuously challenging each other in karate throws. Lynskey himself led the fight choreography, and Fernandez, Marano, and himself maintained comedic timing while having to exert high energy levels.

Another highlight came from the frazzled Amy, played by London Jones, one of Robert’s best friends set to get married to Paul, played by Mitchell Hendricks.

Jones handled one of the most challenging musical theatre songs speed-wise (‘Getting Married Today’) with rapid-fire diction and impressive stamina. After some time worrying and calling the wedding off, Paul and Amy still end up husband and wife.

On her time in Company, Jones commented, “I’m grateful to have worked in such a positive and uplifting environment, especially when it came to working with ‘Getting Married Today.’”

Jones concluded, “I’ve always been hesitant when it comes to singing in musicals, but all the positivity I’ve received from my castmates and creative team helped me face my fear and find my love for singing, no matter how fast the tempo might be!”

Monmouth University’s production of Company is equally as entertaining as it is smart and insightful. This show is appealing in that it stimulates thoughts about relationships beyond superficial pleasures. Regardless of how bizarre or complex they can be, friends and lovers can define a life, ultimately making one realize more about themselves.

PHOTO TAKEN by Erica Barbara

IMAGE TAKEN from @joe.rapolla Instagram