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COMPANY - NODA Review

Posted on 25 May 2022, 12:16

The Noda review for Company is here - and it is fabulous! So proud ❤

Company is a musical comedy with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth. The original 1970 production was nominated for a record-setting 14 Tony Awards winning six. Company lacks a linear plot, depicting instead a story occurring in the mind of the central character Robert, a concept musical composed of short vignettes, presented in no particular chronological order, linked by a 35th birthday.

Company was among the first book musicals to deal with contemporary dating, marriage, and divorce. As Sondheim explained, "Broadway theatre has been for many years supported by upper-middle-class people with upper-middle-class problems. In Company, Robert is a well-liked single man living in New York City whose friends are all married or engaged couples. It is Robert's 35th birthday, and the couples have gathered to throw him a surprise party. When Robert fails to blow out all the candles on his birthday cake, the couples promise him that his birthday wish will still come true, though Bobby has wished for nothing, claiming that his friends are all that he needs. Through the rest of the musical, we see Robert interact with his friends as his life choices are questioned. Considering this was written in 1970 it still resonates with today's audiences. Relationships, sexuality, single v's married, dating, searching for love, mature marriage, family, socialising, sex – are all touched on during the musical.

Robert - played with gentle, confidence, and humour by Rob Callaby. His voice was perfect for this role as he seemed confident speaking and singing with the New York accent. The chemistry between him and all the other players was wonderful. I always feel comfortable when Rob is on stage and this performance was very believable.

Peter and Susan portrayed by Stephen Brown & Rachel Hockmeyer invite Robert to their apartment terrace. Peter is an Ivy League graduate, and Susan is a Southern belle; the two seem to be a perfect couple, yet they surprise Robert with the news of their upcoming divorce. They play this in such a sweet way, and it seems they are still good friends. It's only later in act 2- the scene on the terrace where Peter almost but not quite propositions Robert, had me laughing out loud. Such a perfectly timed piece. But of course, this explains a lot about Peter's marriage. Stephen and Rachel connected extremely well, and both gave strong musical performances.

Joanne and Larry, played by Jen Graves and Stuart Bull, were a brilliant pairing. Jen's voice, especially in ‘Ladies Who Lunch' number was amazing, so smooth and confident, super performance and Stuart also sang well and was a very skilled actor all round. The couple's relationship was well portrayed with lots of subtle funny moments. I particularly enjoyed their relationship on stage, Joanne, the cynic wife, married most lately to an understanding man who adores her, despite her world-weary, pessimism and doubts.

Harry and Sarah, are played by Jo Warrick and Julian Warrick. I chatted to Jo and Julian after the show and only then realised they are married. They said this had helped with the performance and had lots of practice at home to get the physical elements of their performance right. Harry an alcoholic, supposedly now not drinking and Sarah a foodie, now on a diet, both try to seduce Roberts with whiskey and brownies to eliminate their own cravings. They comically taunt each other over their vices, escalating toward karate-like fighting and thrashing that may or may not be playful. Huge leaps and falls were executed by Jo and Julian accomplished with finesse. Later Harry explains, and the other married men concur, that people are both thankful and regretful about getting married, and that marriage changes both everything and nothing about the way they live. (Sorry, Grateful). This was Jo's first musical; I wouldn't have known.

David and Jenny, played by Tina Chandley and Mark Parkin experience an evening with Robert where they smoke marijuana. This scene was physically funny, heart-warming, and a little sad. Tina and Mark gave first-rate performances.
Paul and Amy – played with energy by David Philips-Peter and Melissa Poulson. It is their wedding day, and Amy has cold feet, and as the upbeat Paul harmonizes rapturously, a panicking Amy confesses to the audience that she can't go through with it. Just a simply wonderful song, perfectly timed and sung by Melissa. David as the young man, who loves and longs to be loved, played the tragedy with skill.

Kathy – Clare Allen, April – Jenny Cartwright, Marta – Lucy Allen, are all dating Robert. In act 1 they sing Andrews Sister-style, to chastise Robert for his reluctance to be committed (You Could Drive a Person Crazy). A brilliant performance, full of vigour and panache. The three girlfriends are all very different and Robert circles between them trying to make up his mind about his life, getting married, or staying single. We are unsure what he will do, as all his male friends are deeply envious of his commitment-free status, but each has found someone they find perfect for Robert (Have I Got a Girl for You). Robert is waiting for someone who merges the best features of all his married female friends (Someone Is Waiting). Robert meets his three girlfriends on separate occasions, in the park we meet Marta as she sings of the city: crowded, dirty, uncaring, yet somehow wonderful (Another Hundred People), Lucy gives an outstanding performance. Robert's relationship with the ditsy April, is more complicated, even when he seduces her into bed, she is too slow-witted to realise she is being played. This scene in act 2 was masterful, I really enjoyed the idea that we can hear Robert and April's thoughts, interspersed with music that expresses and mirrors their increasing excitement. Clare and Lucy's chair dance was lovely, cheeky, and effective. When Robert meets Kathy in the park it seems, ‘wrong place, wrong time' when she reveals that she is leaving for Cape Cod with a new fiancé. Clare's performance is both enjoyable and heartbreaking as she leaves him.

A word about the set, which was fantastic. The idea of three levels, with steps to both sides, movable furniture, and a terrace/balcony which although painted stark white seemed to hide in the background when necessary. Christian Slingsby design brought a sturdy yet comfortable-looking space, I commend his choice of colour and shapes. Which along with the costuming (Rachael Hockmeyer), brought ambiguity to when the play was set. It could have been set in any decade since 1970. The subtle use of modern phones, fashions from different eras, and other props (Josh Harwood), like the choice of glasses, used, all combined to such a point where everything came together in support of, instead of taking over and didn't negatively impact on the story being told. Really cleverly thought out. An intricate lighting plot, well-rehearsed, enhanced the action and whomever was on the follow spot needs a medal, bang on at every moment and movement. The backstage crew worked smoothly to change different elements of the set, taking us to Central Park, the different homes of each couple, Robert's apartment, and even a nightclub.

First-time director, Andrea Townshend, deserves every honour for putting Company onto the Blackfriars stage. Direction, choreography, music, costume, and lighting all combined under her leadership. Adrien Reed (Musical Director) did a masterful job with the voices and music at his command. A fabulous show, a storyline that is ever-green, with music that catches your heartstrings, and strong performances from everyone.

Thank you for your warm welcome at Blackfriars, it was a pleasure to meet everyone
https://www.noda.org.uk/show-reports/company-1651307031



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