Reviewed by Nancy Oliveri
I was invited to attend a full dress rehearsal of the musical Company, which Half Light Theatre Co. will open tonight (May 2) for a three-show run at the Tri-Cities Opera Center, 315 Clinton St., Binghamton.
The musical, with a book by George Furth and music by the incomparable Stephen Sondheim, explores the question of why people marry. Well, for the COMPANY of course … the fellowship and security of knowing someone is always “there.” Company first was produced in 1970; this production is directed by the young, talented Natasha Thompson, with musical direction by Sonny Dewitt, and lighting by Theresa Yajko.
The story is told through the lives of a confirmed bachelor, Bob (Colin Henehan), and his three girlfriends — Marta (Chloe Solan), April (Tiffany Jhingoor) and Kathy (Carinne Marie) — but, more importantly, through five happily (or adequately) married pairs of friends anxious to get the 35-year-old hitched, too, so he won’t be lonely— not that there is any guarantee that he wouldn’t be. It’s clear that it’s not necessarily working for the established couples.
The three girlfriends are very different from one another, another reason Bobby has so much trouble settling on one or the other, but each has her own individual charm.
In their efforts to relieve the boredom of their own committed relationships, his married friends suck poor “Bob/Bobby/Robert,” as they call him, into their vapid cocktail party existence, and while his puppy dog acceptance of them is a little cloying after a while, we’re glad to see that he has more on the ball than his friends give him credit for. Of course, they all LOVE him, in one way or another, and he is seduced by the attention, as anyone would be.
Henehan does a nice job with Bob, with solid acting and a soaring voice that hits its mark most of the time. You really feel for him when he’s trying to dope out what he should do and who he should marry (if anyone) and wonders, in the touching “Being Alive,”why it matters.
Set in New York City, the action is accompanied throughout by a soloist, who remains on stage from the beginning to the end, seated on the bench of the grand piano. Musical director Dewitt plays, not only the piano, but a pivotal role in moving the story along.
About the friends: Missy Harris is vampy and campy as the sloshed Joanne, and her rendition of “Ladies who Lunch” is great. Joanne’s hubby, Larry (Mickey Woyshner), is good natured and accommodating. I was told that Woyshner filled in only recently in the part, but you’d never know it. He was very at home in the role.
Sarah and Harry, played by Amy L. Smith and Chris Nickerson, are funny as the couple who do everything together. They have some challenging songs and convincing physical bits.
Amy (Rachel Allen) and Paul (Lennox Williams) is a couple on the verge of tying the knot, but they have a hurdle or two to get over first. One loves a little too much and the other not quite enough. Williams plays Paul’s gentler nature so well that, when the show was written, a guy being that tender and in touch with his feminine side might have seemed more like a novelty. Today, it’s not that unusual. I was thinking that, if Amy’s character had been updated to possibly look at a same-sex arrangement, it might have added something, and some production somewhere might have done this. However, the roles are fine as originally written, too.
Jenn Perkins as Jenny and Luke Edsall as David are hilarious, deferring to each other’s naughtier ambitions for a fun time, if only for a bit. Without giving too much away, watch for Perkins’ comedic timing. Fun, fun, fun. She has a lovely singing voice, too.
Caitlin McNichol as transplanted southern belle Susan and Rick Kumpon as her man, Peter, have some unusual ideas of what it means to be married, or not. A word about McNichol’s voice: She was last seen by this reviewer as Fantine in SRO’s Les Miserables, and she has an amazing voice with liquid clarity. She just opens her mouth, and the sound fills the space completely. I’ve heard her improve (if that’s at all possible) in just the last few months I have had the pleasure of hearing her.
She also sang at the start of the Southern Tier Actors Read St. Patrick’s weekend show, Translations, back in March at the Phelps Mansion. In Company, she sings the melodic and beautiful counterpoint to Ross’s incredible, and incredibly fast, “Getting Married Today.” I was exhausted just listening to her, and she hit every single word.
Half Light Theatre is becoming known for producing some challenging works, and this is no exception. I give this company credit for jumping right in.
It’s funny to look at something only 44 years old as a period piece, but Company definitely is dated. It’s kind of fun for anyone who can remember that long ago, and something of an education for anyone who can’t. But if it’s not heresy to say that it might benefit from a little updating, then I’m going to say it.
IF YOU GO: Performances are 8 p.m. today and Saturday (May 2, 3) and 3 p.m. Sunday (May 4). Tickets are $15 cash at door or credit at brownpapertickets.com.