Theatre and Sondheim fans will have heard the hype last year when it was announced that Bobby the lead in Company would be gender swamped to a female. The show ran in both Broadway and in the Westend with this change though for the local production under the Direction of James Huish that is currently running in the Grand Opera House casting has returned to its rightful way (in my opinion) with Bobby as a guy.
So what's the show all about you ask, well as fast-paced and wordy as Sondheim can be I will try and deconstruct for you.
Its tale of a commitment-phobic Manhattan bachelor named Bobby who ricochets among 5 couples, who are his best friends while searching for a soul mate of his own. In the mix are 3 past conquests (girlfriends).
The story opens on the eve of Robert's "Bobby's" 35th birthday over the next 2hr 30 mins or so we are introduced to each not so perfect couple and the 3 girlfriends, returning to the birthday a few times with story, not in chronological order. It's hard to guestimate the timeline so best not to dwell on that. We learn through the story that the perfection Bobby is seeking and holding out for may be a thing of fiction as he discovers first hand that the relationships his friends are in are all turbulent in their own ways.
Sondheim is known for producing some of the most dazzling and bittersweet show tunes and there is no exception in Company "The Little Things You Do Together," in which marital intimacy is hilariously celebrated and demolished; "Side by Side by Side," an extra man's rueful awareness of where he stands in relation to the married couples who court him; "The Ladies Who Lunch," about a breed of overprivileged, underutilized Manhattan wives that may now be vanishing, and the show's coup de theatre, "Being Alive," which helps to conclude "Company" on a note that amounts to rousing ambiguity.
For the most part, they are beautifully performed by the 15 members of the cast, actors who not only must sing and dance but also function as what in any other show would be the chorus. That being said we are also graced with an Ensemble and Children which really brought some of the scenes to life.
The score is vintage a superbly smart, cool commentary on a kind of fastidious, upper-middle-class alienation that is particular to this island borough.
The entire show is an instantaneous flashback experienced by Robert, rooted outside the door of the apartment where his friends have gathered for his "surprise" birthday party. He's unable to move. He can't act decisively (nothing new for him) as he contemplates his future in terms of the past, mostly in vignettes about the triumphs and failures of his pals.
This is Mark Tilley's Musical theatre debut and boy did he set himself a challenge as Bobby is on stage for 95% of the production if not more. Tilley is an accomplished Choral Musician, Choir Director and Performer who has worked all over the UK and Ireland. His vast experience was evident on stage, even though MT may not be his forte, he was a natural. Not your typical casting for a semi lothario though there were no complaints from the audience on his appearance lol. His vocals were a joy and really shawn during "Being Alive" such a beautiful number towards the end of the show, people may have heard a Barabara Streisand version. Having heard Mark's range and ability this production gives a taste of what he is capable of. Let's hope this is the start of a career in Musical Theatre.
The rest of the cast...
The gently self-deceiving Sarah (Meabh Quinn) and Harry (Eamonn Connolly), whose marriage is briefly reduced to an impressive karate match. Susan (Alice Johnston ) and Peter (Ronan Sharkey), who solve their problems by living faithfully together as a divorced couple. Amy (Sinead Morris ) and Paul (Alan McClarty), whose long relationship is threatened when they decide to get married.
The final couple who’s scene had me in a wrinkle was David & Jenny. The Super talented and funny Simon Pyper and the lovely Annette Ward, their dabble with canabis on the front step is so funny and very relatable. We’ve all been there
Sandwiched between these sketches are glimpses of Robert's succession of relationships with young women to whom he's unwilling to commit himself.
There are several surprises in this "Company," including the performance by Sinead Morris who plays Amy a panicked bride who delivers a funny rendition of "Getting Married Today," when the bride suddenly decides she's not about to go through with it.
Louise Fahey is a sweetheart who could melt steel as April, an airline stewardess, one of Robert's one-night stands, who complains that she can't get interested in herself because she's so boring. This was a stand out performance, in my opinion, having worked with Louise it was so entertaining seeing her in a role so different from herself. She received the evening's most spontaneous applause during a scene with her and Bobby when a skirt had a mind of its own. This was clearly not supposed to happen though I do hope they try and reenact it.
Katie Shortt delivered a powerhouse presentation of "Another Hundred People." She plays Marta, another of Robert's girlfriends, a young woman in love with New York because it's "for the me's of this world." Sophie Laverty appears as Kathy, Robert's third girlfriend.
The women in this production register much more strongly than the men, possibly because they are less passive. Meabh Quinn is a delight as the karate expert. Kelly Brown gives what is almost a combative performance as the tough, wise, much-married Joanne. It isn't easy delivering two of the show's best-known songs, "The Little Things You Do Together" and "The Ladies Who Lunch", both songs delivered perfectly with conviction.
The Production team, Directed by James Huish, Musical Direction by Andrew Robinson and Clare Donnelly as Choreographer and Stage Manager, should be ecstatic with what they have brought to the stage.
The run closes in The Grand Opera House on Saturday 4th May, get tickets by clicking here or visit goh.co.uk