Arguably the first concept musical, Company centres around commitment-phobe Robert as he interacts with his oddball assortment of married friends, learning about the various benefits and pitfalls of married life.
This is achieved in a non-linear format (revolutionary in 1970) through a series of unconnected comedic vignettes interspersed with some of Sondheim’s best songs; “Side by Side”, “Not Getting Married” and “Being Alive” will be instantly recognisable to any fans of the artist (or anyone who watches enough Glee). The songs are all of an incredibly high standard, and have the power, in the right hands, to be both hilarious and achingly poignant.
There are moments when this potential is reached. For example, the Act 2 opener “Side by Side” is brilliantly delivered, combining perfectly executed choreography with a full commitment to the song’s vaudevillian inspirations. It is a shame, then, that this level of quality is not maintained throughout the entire show.
A lot of my issues with the production stem from the lacklustre tech, which is mostly due to first night problems. Microphones regularly cut out or crackle, the offstage mics are far louder than those onstage, and generally the band is just too loud for the cast, leaving many of them frustratingly inaudible at times. I found myself feeling genuinely irritated when the mic cut out for the entirety of “Not Getting Married”; Miriam Templeman does a fantastic job of articulating every syllable of Sondheim’s punishing patter song, and I would love to have heard some of it.
With that said, there is certainly plenty to like about DULOG’s production. Most noticeably, the actors’ performances are all-around impressive, with a few particular highlights: Charlie Nicholson embodies a masterfully gawky physicality to great comedic effect, and Ben Cartwright is able to make his character David both brilliantly funny and controlling – his gaslighting of his wife is emphasized in a way I haven’t seen done before, adding an extra layer of discomfort to a typically comedic scene.
Equally impressive is Templeman’s performance as Amy, the bride having a full-blown panic attack on her wedding day. Millie Blair also shines as Marta, mastering the characterisation in addition to her exceptional belt. Francesca Davie-Caceres certainly has a good set of pipes as Joanne, but I felt she could have done a lot more with her role. The song “Ladies Who Lunch” is supposed to be a crescendo of bitterness towards the mundanity of female domesticity, but here Francesca just seems mildly annoyed. A little clearer direction could have eked out some bolder performances, particularly in the small group numbers where cast members sometimes seem lost.
Robert, the show’s lead, is played by Owen Kennedy. He shows an exceptional vocal range, and isn’t afraid to tap into the character’s emotional vulnerability. Unfortunately, during the play’s vignettes his acting appears lacking – this is likely down to Kennedy adopting a more naturalistic approach, compared to his more heightened castmates. A little more directorial vision could have helped even out the performances.
The real stars of the show however are the band, led by Musical Directors Martha Lily Dean and Honor Halford-Macleod. They are able to do full justice to the complexity of Sondheim’s score, and their play-out solo is a real treat for the ears. Though I can’t list all of their names (because there are about 17 of them!), they do a fantastic job and should all be thoroughly commended.
I found the all-white scenery to be visually uninspiring, though it helps emphasize the clever colour-coordination of the couples’ outfits. The costumes are one of the play’s creative flourishes, and really help the already stellar characterisation.
Overall, there is a lot I enjoyed about Company. The actors are well-chosen and raise plenty of laughs, and the music is exceptionally performed. It’s just a shame that technical issues and hit-and-miss direction limit what could have been a highlight of the musical year.