Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, July, 2000
Many people asked me why I was going to see "Company" if I had just seen it at Barrington Stage. This question illustrates the difference between people who understand the theatre and those who don't. With film, once you have seen it, you have seen it. Seeing a movie again doesn't add anything to your experience. The work frozen on celluloid will look the same, sound the same, and run exactly the same number of minutes every time you see it. It doesn't work that way with the theatre.
Even with the same production - same actors, same set, same lighting - a show on the stage will never be the same twice. And when you are discussing seeing a whole different production with a different cast and director - then you really are talking about an entirely different theatrical experience.
So I went to see "Company" at Oldcastle a mere two weeks after seeing it at Barrington Stage. After that first experience with the show, my reaction was that "Company" was not my favorite musical. After seeing it again it still isn't my favorite, but it has moved quite a few notches higher on the list.
This is not because the Oldcastle production was "better", but because it was warmer and friendlier. Perhaps it is that new bus service they have that links Sheffield directly to the Metro-North train from New York City, but the Barrington Stage production was so much more "New York". It was meaner and grittier. Oldcastle was more about people and less about place.
At first I was not taken with William Broderick as Bobby, the central unmarried character around whom all the trials of his married friends revolve. Broderick has real chiseled soap hunk good looks, and I am still not really sure how good of an actor he is, but the Booby at Barrington Stage was way too boyish. I would imagine Broderick's Bobby is closer to what Dean Jones (be still my teenaged heart!) offered in the original Broadway production.
Overall Oldcastle has assembled an attractive cast who can really sing. Dancing is another question, and the uncredited choreography is a little questionable. But "Company" is not a dancing kind of show, so that hardly matters.
Cast members I particularly enjoyed included Kerri Lynn Hastings as Amy, and Jessica Ordman as Marta. I was interested in Rebecca Blouin's April because the actress, purposely or not, could not conceal her own intelligence. Actually, perhaps it was her lack of real intelligence that made it impossible for her to conceal it…who knows. April is written as the quintessential dumb blonde and Blouin is a dark brunette who doesn't play dumb very well, and yet it somehow worked.
Sondheim's music and lyrics for "Company" are absolutely brilliant. Many of the songs have moved into the musical vernacular in the intervening 30 years, and rightly so. On the other hand the book by George Furth is way too long. Someone should have taken a judicious pair of scissors to the script years ago.
There was a group of hearing impaired people in the audience accompanied by a sign language interpreter who was obviously not familiar with the show. It was very interesting to watch her interpret the show, especially the lyrics. While the hearing impaired guests enjoyed the show far more than they would have without the interpreter being there, they appeared to have "heard" a very different set of songs than the ones Sondheim wrote. This is not a criticism because God knows I wouldn't even ATTEMPT to sign Sondheim, but it was interesting to see how the interpreter, without a prior knowledge of the lyrics, translated them. The point of the song was very often lost.
"Company" produced by the Oldcastle Theatre Company, runs through July 30 at the Bennington Center for the Arts at the intersection of VT Rt. 9 and Gypsy Lane. The show runs two and three-quarters hours with one intermission, and contains adult language and situations. Call the Oldcastle box office at 802-447-0564 for tickets and information.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2000