In today’s Wall Street Journal I review a Boston revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company. Here’s an excerpt.
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The best thing that ever happened to Stephen Sondheim (other than being born a genius) was the advent of the scaled-down revivals that have made it possible in recent years for ambitious regional theater companies to mount his complex musicals without busting their budgets beyond hope of repair. Not only are they introducing his shows to a generation of viewers too young to have seen the original Broadway productions, but the best of them have changed the way that older viewers see those shows. No sooner do you strip away the big-budget trappings than it becomes evident that Mr. Sondheim’s musicals have far more in common with the hard-edged life studies of Edward Albee and Tennessee Williams than with “My Fair Lady” or “South Pacific.” To see the Lyric Stage Company of Boston’s small-scale revival of “Company,” directed with comprehensive understanding by Spiro Veloudos, is to come away with a much clearer sense of just how serious Sondheim and his collaborators are—and how unnervingly close to the emotional knuckle “Company” continues to cut 46 years after it was first seen on Broadway.
Written with George Furth, “Company” is set at a surprise birthday party for Robert (John Ambrosino), a 35-year-old man-about-Manhattan who is dating three women (Adrianne Hick, Maria LaRossa and Carla Martinez) but won’t commit to any of them, even though he’s lonely and longs to settle down. Why not? Because he’s been keeping tabs on the lives of the five married couples who are his best friends, and is scared to death by what he sees…
For all its manifold brilliance, “Company” is hard to perform persuasively, for the songs and sketches are so widely varied in tone that the show can feel incoherent. That’s what makes this production so impressive: Working in the closest possible collaboration with Rachel Bertone, his choreographer, Mr. Veloudos has succeeded in locking together the disparate elements of “Company” into an indissolubly unified whole. Not only are the songs acted with total conviction, but they are made to flow into and out of the sketches with deceptive ease. In addition, Mr. Veloudos and Ms. Bertone have made ingenious use of Lyric Stage’s 234-seat thrust-stage auditorium, which wraps the audience so tightly around the tiny central playing area that you feel like a guest at the party….
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Read the whole thing here.
The trailer for the Lyric Stage revival of Company: