SHOWING : July 16, 2010 - August 08, 2010
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
On the night of his 35th birthday, confirmed bachelor Robert contemplates his unmarried state. In vignette after hilarious vignette, we are introduced to "those good and crazy people," his married friends, as Robert weighs the pros and cons of married life. In the end, he realizes being alone is "alone, not alive." This innovative work by Stephen Sondheim is considered by many to have inaugurated the modern era of musical theatre.
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
A City of Strangers|
Saturday, July 31, 2010 ||
Stage Door Players' presentation of "Company" is triggering widely divergent opinions in its audiences. The person I sat next to was most impressed by Barbara Cole Uterhardt, saying she "nailed" her performance of "Getting Married Today," and by Kathleen McCook, who he thought had the elegant looks and strong vocals the show calls for. I wasn't particularly impressed by Barbara Cole Uterhardt, who didn't exhibit the manic zaniness I expect from Amy. I do agree, however, that Kathleen McCook had the right, sophisticated look for the show, which was otherwise missing except in Jennifer Levison's sleek black outfit and jaded demeanor.|
This "Company" is not filled with beautiful people. "Schlubby" is the word that comes to mind for most of the men and some of the women. Costuming is particularly unfortunate for star Dustin Lewis as Bobby, who doesn't look like the object of anyone's desires, let alone the diverse trio of Sharon Litzky, as the hippie-like Marta, Courtney Foster-Donahue, as the strait-laced Kathy, and Kara Noel Harrington, as the lovably dim stewardess April. I saw no believable connection between him and these ladies, but then again there was little connection inside the married couples either. This "Company" takes place in a city of strangers, even inside most of the marriages, it seems.
The lack of connections may work on some sort of intellectual level, but it makes for a sterile visceral experience. Bobby wants someone, as he repeats in song throughout the show, so he must see something in the married couples he interacts with that makes him want to have a relationship too. Heaven knows what that something might be in this production. The writing is there, but the couples never fully connect. For me, it was particularly jarring in the relationship between Amy and Paul (Justin T. Anderson), who are getting married, yet seem barely to be nodding acquaintances.
Marcie Millard is a delight as Jenny, bringing lots of humor and character to her role. Luis Hernandez, as her husband David, underplays a bit, but does as good a job as any of the husbands in making it seem that he has had a relationship with his wife. The elegant Kathleen McCook is paired with Charlie Bradshaw, who has a splendid voice, but is not a good visual match for his supposed wife. Shane Desmond and Rachel Miller, as Peter and Susan, do some nice individual work, but don't seem New Yorkers in the least.
Jennifer Levison and Geoff Uterhardt seem consciously cast as a cougar and her younger husband, but it doesn't really work. I found myself laughing at some of Mr. Uterhardt's reactions in ensemble moments, but these moments were lost to most of the audience in the midst of group activity. I admired Ms. Levison's performance in general, but lyric bobbles in "The Little Things You Do Together" couldn't all be chalked up to incipient inebriation. I did feel that she captured the self-knowing mockery of the final verse of "The Ladies Who Lunch" in a way that truly hit me and let me glimpse the lava boiling beneath her brittle, icy exterior.
Bobby's three girlfriends all have shining moments. Courtney Foster-Donahue comes across winningly, but seems wasted in her small role. I really would have liked to have heard her blasting through "Another Hundred People." That song went to Sharon Litzky, but I don't feel that the song meshed at all with Marta's dialogue scenes. Ms. Litzky was the best Marta I have seen in the acting scenes, giving a nice contrast to the married people with her slightly subversive attitude, but she showed none of that attitude in the song. She seemed intent on powering her way through the song, and her voice just isn't gasp-inducingly spectacular. I feel she should have been allowed to act her way through the song more, rather than trying to fit into the Pamela Myers mold that musical director Linda Uzelac apparently wanted.
Kara Noel Harrington really is the heart of the show as April. She is sweet and sincere, giving a humorously straight-faced performance that touched me and amused me at once. Her diffident warmth is in contrast to the romantic coldness or indifference of the rest of the cast, and I do wish it had rubbed off a bit on some of the other cast members, to allow for occasional moments of real connection. Lack of connection has more impact on an audience when moments of near-connection occur.
The set is functional, although sometimes apparently cramped. There's plenty of room in front for the show-bizzy choreography of Jen MacQueen in "Side by Side." Otherwise, there's not much dancing, which is just fine in a Sondheim show. The singing and dialogue take the forefront, as they should in "Company." It is a tribute to the writing that this production is provoking such varied reactions in its audience members. The direction of this show seems focused on a superficial level of getting the words and songs out there, but that just reinforces the depths that the words and songs can plumb. See it and judge for yourself. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
A Life of His Own|
|by Mama Alma
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 ||
Before the pad and the pod and the touch and the shuffle, people actually hummed to themselves as they walked along. If they were lucky, they got a Stephen Sondheim tune stuck in their collective heads. If they were very lucky, they got an entire score from a show as wonderful as "Company". It's been a week and they're still playing in steady rotation for me.|
There really aren't enough words to describe how great Stage Door's production of "Company" is. From sweet ballads like "Sorry, Grateful" and "Someone Is Waiting"" to the driven "Marry Me a Little" and "Alive," with detours into the frantic "(Not) Getting Married Today," comedy- laden "Have I Got a Girl for You (Whaddaya Wanna Get Married For?)" and the wry and raucous "The Little Things You Do Together" and "The Ladies Who Lunch," not to mention the crowd pleasing "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" and "Another Hundred People," every song is a gem. I overheard one woman say she never realized that so many of the Sondheim songs she liked came out of the same musical. And the brilliant thing about Sondheim is how impeccably each piece fits its purpose and connects with every other song. It's a master class in composition. And where else can you find lines like "It's the concerts you enjoy together, neighbors you annoy together, children you destroy together – that make perfect relationships."
But if it were just about the music, which indeed can and does stand alone, it wouldn't be theater: it would be a concert. All this wonderful music is wrapped around the poignant story of a guy, finally, at 35, coming of age in New York, made palpable by Chuck Welcome's spare but evocative set and John David Williams' and Michael Magursky's lighting. What starts out as a light and crazy romp about a confirmed bachelor and his extended family of married friends takes a left turn somewhere in the last act when Bobby's rich older friend Joanne (the au courant term being "cougar") offers to "take care of him." And Bobby wonders aloud, then who will he take care of? It's a shift in his perspective, from looking for the perfect woman, a blend of all of the great qualities of all his married women friends ("a Susan sort of Sarah, a Jennyish Joanne") to wanting to actually give of himself.
All of Bobby's friends are crazy happy miserable in their own way. The women all want to do for him (or do him) and the men all want to have what they perceive is his perfect life. At first "company" seems to refer to the relationship Bobby has with each couple – "three is company, two is boring" Bobby says. But in the exploration of each couple's tongue in cheek "perfect relationship," some broader insights about marriage are showcased, and "company" takes on a completely different meaning.
The bookends in the marriage showcase are Sarah (Kathleen McCook) and Harry (Charlie Bradshaw) and Joanne (Jennifer Levison) and Larry (Geoff Uterhardt). Larry and Joanne are older versions of Harry and Sarah, couples who bicker and hurt each other so easily (because they know exactly where to stick the knives) that outsiders wonder how they ever got married in the first place. But without Bobby present, Sarah and Harry express love for each other, and Larry says that except around Bobby, Joanne doesn't drink. "I wish you could meet the real Joanne some day," he tells Bobby. Larry unabashedly affirms that although Joanne is difficult, he's a very happy man, in love with a woman he finds endlessly fascinating.
Closer to the ideal of marriage, and bracketing the heart of the show, Marcie Millard and Luis Hernandez are hysterically funny as David and Jenny, in a terrific scene which is, at its heart, about abandonment of ego. The audience loved it. Shane Desmond (what a great voice) plays Peter, a man who divorces his wife but continues to live "at home" in order to fulfill his family obligations. In fact, Peter says, he's more married to Rachel Miller's Susan now that he's not married than when he was actually married.
For me, though, the wedding cake couple of "Company" is embodied by Paul (Justin Anderson) and Amy (Barbara Uterhardt), the good and the innocent, people who manage to hurt each other by being scared and human. Bobby actually proposes to Amy (on her wedding day!) in a desperate attempt to avoid getting married (because Amy has spent the last scene refusing to get married (yes, on her wedding day). Bobby's preposterous proposal serves as a reality check that drives her out into the rain and into her own perfectly imperfect relationship.
Dustin Lewis, as Bobby, is a fine stalwart center for the show, deftly navigating what amounts to straight man for all his crazy married friends for much of the time. Bobby is kind of a bounder, but he's never really unlikeable, and Lewis is able to shift gears smoothly from the guy who's driving his (three) girlfriends crazy with his emotional inaccessibility and sincere but ultimately empty overtures into an accepting person with a full and open heart.
"Company" can be enjoyed as a sly wink at marriage, a cornucopia of Sondheim hits, a breezy gloss on bachelorhood. But watch out for that left turn in the last act, when Bobby falls hard – not for any particular girl, but into the realization that to be really alive he's going to have to let another person in, uncomfortably close. It won't be perfect. It won't even be close. But it will be his own.
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"Somebody Force Me to Care"|
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 ||
It’s a great thing when audience patrons arrive at your theatre expecting wonderful theatre supported by high standards of performance and production, as I did this past weekend. For that’s what one expects from Stage Door productions—the highest standards, a designation they’ve earned with many excellent shows throughout their history. Dunwoody’s Stage Door Players proudly touts itself as Dunwoody’s only professional theatre. Well, in the sense that “professional” denotes excellence, SDP fall short of their own previous standards with their current production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company”.|
First disappointment is apparent when entering the theatre: the set is unimaginative with simple multi-level platforms (which the cast sometimes had trouble navigating) and childish, awkward looking representations of New York City fire escapes. Certainly not what audiences expect from Chuck Welcome, the staff designer. Occasionally there was a projection of a city skyline or burst of color, which injected a bit of energy into the set, but for the most part, it was just simply boring and bland.
Such a minimalist set puts pressure on the cast to add color and texture through their performances in order to pull the audience in and hold their attention while the story is told. Director Robert Egizio assembles a cast which includes several well-known Atlanta area performers—Marcie Millard, Kathleen McCook, Charlie Bradshaw and the Uterhardts—Geoff and Barbara Cole, among others. Yet only Ms. Millard delivers a characterization with exceptional energy and focus. While there were nice voices in the cast (always a plus in a Sondheim show), the performances were weak—particularly the men. Interesting in a show about marriage relationships that none of the matched duos seemed to project interacting, committed, loving or “at-ease-with-each-other” couples. Too many times the actors just stood on the platform as individual units and delivered lines and lyrics. As a vocal ensemble, the cast was admirable. As a cohesive acting ensemble, with rich, variable characters…not so much.
Musical director Linda Uzelac has certainly earned her stellar reputation and Stage Door is most lucky to have her. With this show, however, although the music itself was performed excellently, the transitions from dialogue to musical number were blaring and jarring in a sort of clunky way rather than smoothly interwoven into the show.
Individual songs were often disappointments—most notably “Not Getting Married Today.” Why did the directors and Ms. Uterhardt choose not to SING the song Sondheim wrote, but to speak it instead? A poor choice and one which robbed the audience of a masterfully written, full-of-energy, edge-of-your-seat song. Was it too much of a challenge or was the audience just not worth the trouble? Anyone drawn to this production because of the musical score is bound to be disappointed. Dustin Lewis, in the central role of Bobby, struggled with the vocal range of his music, most noticeably “Marry Me a Little”. In the climatic “Being Alive”, he begins with an odd, grimacing intensity which hasn’t been apparent anywhere else in his performance, but ends it with an “I’m Singing a Great Karaoke Number” attitude. Finally, Jennifer Levison, in the pivotal role of Joanne, is capable of visually projecting the attitude and feline swagger of Joanne, but oddly reined it in and seemed not to understand her signature song, “The Ladies Who Lunch”. Her delivery of the song—particularly at the end—seemed more like a disconnected, properly sung recital piece than a “let-it-all-hang-out,” raw aria.
From all directions, onstage and off, this show seemed to project an uninvolved, uninvested attitude—which creates the same “who cares” attitude in return from the audience.
Overall, this “Company” is the mediocre sum of its many disappointing parts—and certainly not the show which proves that Stage Door has pulled away from community theatre status to professional level.
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| || Let he who is without sin cast the first snark by playgoer|
| I was reading some of TheatreJock's reviews the other day and was impressed with how honest his (or her) reviews seem to be. They don't go for easy praise. I always find them well-written, interesting, and direct. I don't agree with all points in TheatreJock's review of "Company," but I certainly feel these opinions have a right to be voiced.|
| || Note to playgoer and Adrian by TheatreJock|
| Thanks, playgoer, for your comments. I enjoy your reviews as well. One of the points in your review of “Company” was similar to mine, but you said it much better: the lack of a connection between the actors contributed to a lack of connection with the audience, and when moments of connection did occur—as with the character of April—the disconnect became even more obvious. Well said…and thanks again.|
To Adrian: Maybe we did see different shows, and we each offered our opinions. One of your points, though, I will dispute. You say “this is not a show that takes place in any specific location.” I disagree, based on what I heard: (1) The show takes places in the New York apartments of Bobby’s married friends, a park, and a New York bar (2) “Another Hundred People” sung by Marta is about multitudes of people arriving in “the city of strangers.” (3). Much of Marta’s scene with Bobby was about how best to experience and survive New York City (4) Kathy’s conversation with Bobby was about knowing “when it’s time to come to New York, and when it’s time to leave New York.” (5) Joanne’s conversation with Bobby about devoted she is to New York City and would never consider living anywhere else, despite various husbands encouraging her to do so. Through song lyrics and dialogue, I perceived New York City to almost be an additional member of the “Company” cast. Suggesting those locations through simple props or simple set pieces might have relieved the visual blandness of the show.
Just my opinion. I’m glad you enjoyed the show and maybe the collective comments on this site will increase the box-office receipts for Stage Door’s production.
| || TheatreJock and playgoer... by Adrian|
| Yes, I know the show takes place in New York. You'd have to be deaf and dumb to have missed that. You'd also have to be at least one of those things to require the aid of props and set pieces to adequately represent New York.|
Let me break this down for you.
The events of the show skip around through time. We (the audience) visit the same birthday party three different times, and the vignettes all occur at vague moments in the past. Clearly, this is not realism, it's expressionism. I'd suggest that if the production included "props and sets to better suggest the location" (paraphrase) it may have worked against the ethereal, fluid qualities of the narrative. By the same token, if this show were a realist piece (which again, it is clearly not) and the design was expressionistic, we'd have a problem. A set of platforms and abstract lighting for Phantom or Wicked or Annie would not work. But for Company? Evita? Tommy? Yes, please.
It would seem that you require some spectacle in your theatre. Your lone rave review was for The Color Purple, whose production was certainly a feat of great design. But Company is not, and never should be, a spectacle show. It's an intimate, personal show, and the designers of this production were smart enough to get that. Thank God there were no park benches or art deco couches or "New York City props". Whatever those might be.
All that aside, I wish you and your playgoer friend would reconsider your approach to these reviews. Yes, it's nice to have a place to post your thoughts on a show. And yes, you have the right to say whatever you want. But some of your comments go so far over the lines of decency, taste, and basic good sense that I'm honestly a bit embarrassed for you. Particularly if you are members of the small theatrical community in Atlanta, but even if you're not, it's just bad form. This is not Hollywood, these people are not celebrities, and you are not Perez Hilton. If you're really this eager to cut apart local theatres and artists, why not start a blog using your real names?
I think we know why you won't. Anonymity is empowering. Hiding behind it is cowardly. Maybe this article will help you understand yourselves better. http://tinyurl.com/2d6wlam
| || Just the Facts by playgoer|
| For a view of the park bench used in the original 1970 production of "Company," try |
| || http://books.google.com/books?id=V7WOS5w6mzwC&pg=PA76 by playgoer|
| || Adrian, by Roberts|
| I believe playgoer gave the show a 4.0 review and whether YOU like the review or agree with it, they are both well thought out and detailed reviews without any sense of biasness either way. For someone who is a random audience member, you seem to be quite up in arms about these two reviews. Just some observations of my own. I have immense respect for this theater and its staff and would hate to see a petty argument like this on TR hurt any reputation or respect people have for it. My advice: let it go. |
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
by David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)