Friday, October 10, 2014

You are in good company with Bay City Players "Company"

The single guy (Dan Taylor) holding the P, his three girlfriends far right and his five married couple friends

review by janet i. martineau

photos by michelle ouellette

When you are single, sometimes your married friends drive you nuts.

That, in a nutshell, is the premise of Stephen Sondheim's quirky musical "Company," playing the Bay City Players Oct. 9-12 and Oct. 16-19.

Directed by Mike Wisniewski, this production is graced with a plethora of gorgeous singing voices, delightful choreography and beautiful sounds eminating from the orchestra pit. That it is a bit draggy and sometimes the acting skills wobble is of small concern.
Danessa Hellus

For those unfamiliar with Sondheim, his music is an absolute nightmare of multiple complexities -- hence the fact I called "Company" a quirky musical. It demands much of  singers, it demands much of its orchestra and it demands much of its audiences with its fits and starts, unusual patterns, and sometimes discordant notes.

Added to that is the screwy storyline, told in a series of vignettes surrounding a 35-year-old single man named Robert, or Bobby, Weaving in and out of his life are five married couple friends, all of whom think he should get married despite the fact their own marriages are "complicated."

They engage each other in a oneupsmanship karate contest,  divorce only to live together again, get high on drugs, panic on their own wedding day --  one moment extolling the virtues of marriage and then in the next breath expressing doubts.

The reflective song "Sorry-Grateful" sung by three of the male spouses (Dale Bills, Trevor Keyes and Steve Moelter) sums it up, and dramatically is one of the stronger moments.

Added to that mix on stage are three of Bobby's on again off again girlfriends, themselves oddballs and of doubtful marriage quality.

So there you have it -- a mix of madcap music and madcap people.  And with virtually every cast member having at least one vocal solo or one moment of extended dialogue, there is no margin for error.

Fortunately in this production, only one cast member fails. We will leave him/her unnamed. The rest have one or more shining moments.

Kori Orlowski and Randall Manetta
Dan Taylor as Bobby is in virtually every scene and his three solo pieces are an absolute treat for the ears. Danessa Hellus absolutely owns "Another Hundred People." Denyse Clayton's sarcastic tones and movement in "The Little Things You Do Together"'  and "The Ladies Who Lunch" are rock solid delightful.

Kori Orlowski as the panicked bride sings in a machine gun the style during "Getting Married Today." While it is mostly unintelligible because of its rapid fire, it is nonetheless remarkable. 

Contrasting with her in that number is the exquisite high soprano churchy sound delivered by Amy Britt, which raises here on the neck.

And in what may be the show's most complicated song in terms of timing, Shanna Fancey as the goofy flight attendant girlfriend and Taylor deliver in sync in "Barcelona."

With the use of risers and alcoves, Wisniewski leaves all of the actors onstage all of the time, at home in their own dwellings in subdued lighting when not performing. Totally works as if to say even when not around our friends are still playing roles in our lives.

The use of those risers and choreographer Holly Haga Bills also keep the show moving effectively. And watching her choreography build step-by-step in "Side by Side by Side" is one of the evening's highlights, leaving the entire cast winded.

Released in 1970, the Tony-winning,"Company" still nails it when it comes to the world of human dilemma.

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