Culture & Conversation

Tea for Many

Do Love and Marriage really go together like a horse and carriage? The musical classic Company examines this pairing in vignettes of five Manhattan couples as they celebrate the 35th birthday of their bachelor friend Robert (Dave Stewart). He has had episodes with at least three lady friends, April, Marta and Kathy (all winningly played by Elizabeth Conway) that didn’t work out.

The genesis of this multi-award winning musical by Stephen Sondheim was a script by actor George Furth that envisaged Kim Stanley playing all the female roles. The actor Anthony Perkins brought it to the attention of Sondheim, who in turn sought the opinion of his frequent producer, Harold Prince, who suggested Sondheim himself make a musical out of it.

Sondheim, who famously pounded the piano all through the night while composing, incurred the enmity of Katherine Hepburn, his early to bed neighbor, who marched across the courtyard in her jammies to shut him down. Sondheim survived the wrath of Kate and the musical went on to win 6 Tonys in 1970 and has been staged in major theatres around the world.

This production, by the Players Theatre of McGill, acquits itself well. Its 12 actor-singers and 8-piece hidden live orchestra accurately capture the feel of upper middle class Manhattan. While Sondheim’s harmonics are respected by many musicologists, his finished songs do not lend themselves to hit singles as do recent Montreal productions like Guys and Dolls, 42nd Street, Oklahoma! or Curtains.

Still, the titles of the songs do reflect the theme of the piece. The married men croon “Have I got a girl for you” to Robert while unsure of their own bliss in “Sorry-Grateful.”

”Side by Side” evinces the desire for the committed company of another, while “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” and “Marry Me- a Little” illustrate the ambivalence of the couples.

Here is a guide to tell the couples apart:

Harry (Mike Sornberger) and Sarah (Julie Bradshaw), who have abstained from booze
and food addictions respectively, sublimate their repressions into bickering over small details. Peter (Cameron MacLeod) and southern belle Susan (Elyse Lewis) decide their married life is better by living together after divorcing. David (Ryan Peters) has controlling tendencies over sweet innocent Jenny (Leah Sutton) during a hilarious pot scene.

Paul (Jonathan Corkal ) is a long suffering fiancé as neurotic Amy (Kelly Hermann)
shrieks on wedding day with last minute jitters. Larry (Jonathan Eidelman) is accepting rich husband number three to haughty Joanne (Zara Jestadt)

This entertaining show is further enhanced by the well crafted choreography created by Nicole Rainteau, no small feat on a small stage with performers selected for their spoken and singing skills.

Spotted in the audience was actor/singer/dancer Nadia Verrucci, who informed us she had appeared in Company herself twice. Her production of “JacquesBrel is Alive and Well” is slated for March at the MainLine theatre. Brel, like Sondheim, uses his many tunes as bittersweet comment on personal relations, a particular focus for the largely student audience here.

Company runs until October 27.
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PHOTO: Victor Tangermann

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