Music and Lyrics by STEPHEN SONDHEIM
Book by GEORGE FURTH
Originally Produced & Directed on Broadway by Harold Prince
Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick
- Fred Sternfeld
Connor O'Brien as "Bobby" and Shawn Galligan as "Peter"
all color photos on this page are by Kathy Sandham and are copyrighted
and not to be reproduced without permission
by Donald Rosenberg
When it comes to Sondheim's 'Company,' Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory bests the New York Phil
Imagine my delight, as a longtime admirer of the works of Stephen Sondheim, to have encountered two productions of "Company" in April.
The first was the New York Philharmonic's starry semi-staged concert at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. The second was the Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory's postage-stamp production at Fairmount Center for the Arts in Mayfield Village.
Now, imagine my surprise to have enjoyed the intimate Fairmount Center version far more than the glitzy Philharmonic incarnation. In New York, the opening-night performance was beset by sync problems between cast and orchestra (led by longstanding Sondheim conductor Paul Gemignani).
And just a handful of the singers were well-versed in the show's pulsating score. Patti LuPone's scorching Joanne ("The Ladies Who Lunch") was the evening's highlight.
At the Fairmount Center, director Fred Sternfeld has put together a uniformly strong cast that negotiates Sondheim's songs with expressive and rhythmic aplomb and almost manages to fashion George Furth's fragmented, cursory book into something tolerable.
This biting look at relationships – and how Bobby, the central figure, is unable to commit– only rises above the mundane when Sondheim is weaving his musical and lyrical magic. The Fairmount cast and a fine small offstage orchestra are alert to the wry twists of phrase, soaring lines and cheeky urban references.
The staging is effective in placing Bobby and the married couples (often illuminated behind doors) in striking focus. Although the stage is so cramped – and burdened by a portable platform – that the cast can't do justice to the show-biz revelry in "Side by Side by Side," the actors' proximity to the audience is a major factor in the production's fresh appeal.
Everyone deserves a round of applause, though only a few can be mentioned here. Natalie Green is a terrific Marta ("Another Hundred People") and Ursula Cataan a hilarious, adorable Amy (nimble in the patter lyrics of "Getting Married Today").
Connor O'Brien sings Bobby superbly, especially a deeply affecting performance of "Being Alive," and he'll be even better when he drops the coy, impish gestures. As Joanne, the ever-compelling Tracee Patterson has the makings of a knockout performance. On opening night, her Joanne was too soused at the start of "The Ladies to Lunch" to carry the tirade to its inevitable conflagration.
No matter. Anyone who savors Sondheim is advised to take the short trek to the Fairmount Center. The next Sondheim show Sternfeld and company take up will be "A Little Night Music" in the fall, with Patterson as Desiree, Matthew Wright as Frederik and – can't wait – Dorothy Silver as Madame Armfeldt.
Connor O'Brien as "Bobby," Lydia Hall as "Jenny" and Rick McGuigan as "David"
keeps very good "Company"
Case in point: The recent New York Philharmonic concert version of Company, stripped down to its tunes with little connective tissue.
Not so with the Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory's production at the Mayfield Village Civic Center. This is a Company chock-full of talented actors who can sing, dance and generate rich, interesting characters, brought together by a director who marries Sondheim's style with Furth's storytelling.
In fact, director Fred Sternfeld places the story in this musical comedy center stage-literally-by keeping the central character, Bobby, center stage on what is the equivalent of a large Lazy Susan. The mechanism rotates and vacillates along with devout bachelor Bobby's shifting perception of the institution of marriage. It also serves as different locations-a New York apartment terrace, a bed, a couch-as Bobby encounters through a series of vignettes his array of overly protective married friends and assorted of lovers.
The mechanism crowds the performance space, but scenic designer Trad A Burns surrounds the stage with illuminated glass panels through which the ensemble can sing to Bobby. This keeps the intimate stage from getting cluttered.
So too does Bebe Weinberg-Katz's very clever choreography. She manages to both avoid and creatively incorporate the mechanism into the ensemble numbers, which is no small feat given so many feet.
Conner O'Brien is an immediately endearing, absolutely adorable Bobby. He has the wherewithal to find all the lyrical and melodic complexities in Sondheim's work and the voice to effectively express them. He manages to milk the music and lyrics for all they are worth. His "Someone is Waiting," "Marry Me A Little" and "Being Alive" are captivating.
O'Brien is surrounded by an exceptional cast of players who form a rich, robust and balanced collective. They play their roles broadly, to establish the premise that they are figments of Bobby's reflections, but are not so broad as to undermine the rather complex issues the play addresses.
Despite its strong ensemble, this production is at its best when individual performers step forward and take on one of Sondheim's brilliantly conceived songs. These songs become showcases for performers willing to take creative risks; they become showstoppers when performers dare to go out on an emotional ledge. This FPAC production is filthy with showstoppers.
Ursula Cataan, as Amy, takes the pre-nuptial panic attack "Getting Married Today" and turns it into a full-blown meltdown. She throws herself completely into this comedic number and delivers a performance that would be the pinnacle of her professional career if not for so many other memorable performances. She is brilliant.
So is spark plug Natalie Green as Marta, a street-smart native New Yorker who is one of the three lovers/sirens in Bobby's life. In "Another Hundred People," Green beautifully captures the adrenaline rush that is NYC and the improbability of any one of the multitudes connecting with any other in that environment.
Tracee Patterson, as Joanne, delivers-no, expectorates-the biting, inebriated anthem to affluent housewives, "The Ladies Who Lunch," which became the signature song for its originator Elaine Stritch. Patterson not only makes the song her own, but adds an astringency that exposes more pain and raw nerve than Stritch ever managed to muster. This is a song that is both hard to watch and impossible to take your eyes off of.
with these superb individual performances and a fine off-stage orchestra
directed by Jonathan Swoboda, FPAC's Company is greater than the sum of
its magnificent parts and more than just the songs. It never loses sight
of the story and it never loses its audience's undivided attention.
Connor O'Brien as "Bobby," Erin Diroll as "April," Natalie Green as "Marta"
and Sarah Clare as "Kathy"
Stephen Sondheim's convention shattering groundbreaking musical was originally produced in 1970 on Broadway and revived in 1995. It won six Tony awards including "Best Musical."
Company focuses on
Robert, a commitment-phobic bachelor and his married friends. Centered
around Robert's 35th birthday, Company moves through a range of brilliantly
witty scenes between Robert and his coupled friends as they endeavor to
persuade him it's time to take a wife. Company includes some of Sondheim's
most recognizable songs, including Getting Married Today, The Ladies Who
Lunch and Being Alive.
Ursula Cataan as "Amy," Connor O'Brien as "Bobby" and Michael Glavan as "Paul"
by Roy Berko
(Member, American Theatre Critics Association)
NEWSPAPERS--Lorain County Times--Westlaker Times--Lakewood News Times--Olmsted-Fairview
As Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the music and lyrics for Company, which is now on stage at Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory, stated of the musical’s story, “A man with no emotional commitments reassesses his life on his thirty-fifth birthday by reviewing his relationships with his married acquaintances and his girlfriends. That is the entire plot.”
COMPANY is unlike most modern musicals, which follow a clearly delineated plot. It is actually a concept musical composed of short vignettes, presented in no particular chronological order, linked by a birthday party.
COMPANY was among the first musicals to deal with adult problems through its music. For example, Bobbie confronts the five couples. He asks, “Why get married?” “What do you get from it but someone to smother you and make you feel things you don't want to feel?” In spite of his arguments, which seem more for himself than for his listeners, he comes to the conclusion, in the emotional curtain-closing song, that he, in fact, needs someone to share his life with, someone to help and hurt and hinder and love, someone to face the challenges of Being Alive.
The show opened on Broadway on April 26, 1970 and ran for 705 performances in spite of mixed reviews. Numerous revivals have been undertaken, often tweaking the script, the staging and the score. The latest was a recent New York Philharmonic Concert whose all-star cast included Neil Patrick Harris as Bobby and Craig Bierko, Stephen Colbert, Jon Cryer and Patti LuPone.
The Fairmount production, under the adept direction of Fred Sternfeld, is excellent. Simple staging, creative choreography by Bebe Weinberg-Katz, Trad Burns turntable set, and Benjamin Gantose’s lighting design, all add to the quality of production. Musical director Jonathan Swoboda’s orchestra plays well and underscores rather than drowning out the performers. The choral blends are very good.
The cast is universally strong. Standouts include Ursula Cataan (Amy) whose fast-paced doubletalk Getting Married Today is a showstopper. Natalie Green’s (Marta) plaintiff Another Hundred People is another highlight. Tracee Patterson (Joanne) gave just the right drunk, tourchy, vibrance to her characterization and the plaintive The Ladies Who Lunch.
Connor O’Brien (Robert) has a well-trained operatic voice which he uses well in the thoughtful Someone Is Waiting, the delightful Side by Side and the powerful Being Alive. His acting is not of the same level as his vocalizations, as he often feigns facial expressions and emotions. He acts, rather than reacts, thus sometimes giving a superficial feel to the role.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: COMPANY is a go-see production! The quality of staging and performances gives good service to this Sondheim adult musical.
COMPANY runs through
May 14 at the Mayfield Village Civic Center, at the corner of Wilson Mills
and SOM Center Roads in Mayfield Village For tickets call 440-338-3171.
For more information about the play go to www.fairmountcener.org/facpresents.html.
Connor O'Brien as "Bobby," Sarah Clare as "Kathy," Erin Diroll as "April"
and Natalie Green as "Marta"
Jewish News review
by Fran Heller
Landmark musical strikes contemporary note
"Company” is a musical for the angst-ridden modern age.
Set against the backdrop of the late 1960s and the Vietnam War, when the show first premièred on Broadway, it captured a new era of cynicism and discontent, replacing the complacency and optimism of the previous decade. It was a period of social and political upheaval, when time-honored institutions like marriage were being questioned and challenged by young 30-somethings, educated affluent urbanites for whom matrimony was no longer the be-all and end-all of living.
How well does the musical hold up more than 40 years later?
solid, first-class production of “Company” presented by the
Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory proves that the landmark musical
remains strikingly contemporary in its examination of modern-day marriage.
Fred Sternfeld’s sterling direction, a prime cast and innovative
staging deliver a show worthy of legendary composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s
genius. It’s at Mayfield Village Civic Center through May 14.
The story centers on the commitment-averse Robert (Bobby to friends), a seemingly confirmed bachelor living among the five married couples who are his close friends and his three girlfriends. It’s his 35th birthday, and his friends are throwing him a party.
The titular opening number sets the stage for what follows, a series of scenes in which Bobby visits his married friends to observe firsthand the state of their relationships. The action takes place both in real time and inside Bobby’s head.
Set designer Trad A Burns conveys this dichotomy with a large, asymmetrically square-shaped turntable that pivots around a fulcrum, in the same way Bobby’s relationships revolve around each other. In the opening scene, Bobby is fast asleep while his friends and girlfriends appear through glass doors, like images in his dreams.
Gantose’s lighting shifts from the dreamlike state to the real,
as Bobby interacts with each of his friends in his search for the meaning
Connor O’Brien is a phenomenon as the outsider and voyeur Robert, who observes each of his married friends with a mixture of bemused detachment and envy. The operatically trained actor’s rich voice soars in such solos as “Someone Is Waiting,” in which Robert imagines the ideal companion as a composite of all the women in his life, and in the heart-palpitating finale “Being Alive,” when he finally decides that finding someone to love is worth the search.
The strong cast includes Megan Elk and Aaron Elersich as Sarah and Harry. She’s on a diet and taking karate lessons; he has a drinking problem. Robert asks Harry if he ever regrets being married. Harry’s rueful reply in the song “Sorry-Grateful” underscores the contradictions of marriage.
Abigail Allwein and Shawn Gallagan are Susan and Peter. She’s a Southern belle who suffers fainting spells, and he’s Mr. Cool and possibly gay. When Robert declares them the perfect couple, they cheerily reply that they are getting a divorce.
There’s Jenny and David (Lydia Hall and Rick McGuigan), who smoke grass with Robert until they realize, as parents of young children, that getting stoned is kid’s stuff.
Amy (the awesome Ursula Cataan) is a neurotic Catholic, while her fiancé Paul (Michael Glavan) is a laid-back Jewish saint. The twosome have been living together for some time and are finally tying the knot when Amy gets cold feet on her wedding day. Amy’s frenetic show-stopping song “I’m Not Getting Married Today” is a fast-flying tongue twister in which the amazing Cataan doesn’t miss a word.
Tracee Patterson plays the caustic Joanne, the oldest and most cynical of the married friends, whose third husband is the kindly, understanding Larry (James E. Jarrell). In “The Ladies Who Lunch,” a mockery of rich, middle-aged women who waste their lives shopping, entertaining, and working out at the gym, Patterson elicits the bitterness and sarcasm of the self-loathing Joanne but overdoes it with her tipsy act.
Bobby’s girlfriends include the naïve April (the excellent Erin Diroll), who hails from Shaker Heights, no less! Their post-lovemaking song “Barcelona,” in which a disingenuous Bobby feigns feelings for the conflicted stewardess, torn between staying and leaving, is a hoot.
Whereas small-town girlfriend Kathy (Sarah Clare) feels out of place in the big city, for hip Marta (a charismatic Natalie Green) New York City is the center of the universe. Green’s haunting song “City of Strangers,” about loneliness and alienation, is a highlight. Craig Tucker’s costumes reflect the casual urban chic of these Manhattanites.
Bebe Weinberg-Katz’s choreography creates tiny miracles on the cramped stage in “You Can Drive a Person Crazy,” a song in which Bobby baits the three girlfriends like fish with his charm and then pulls out the hooks.
Ensemble numbers are beautifully executed and well-synchronized, including “Side by Side,” an old-fashioned soft-shoe routine that pays tribute to the musicals of yesteryear. Its lyrics stress the co-dependent relationship between Bobby and his married friends, who need him as much as he needs them.
“Company” revolutionized the American musical. Gone were the large, lavish, and sentimental spectacles created by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, who was Sondheim’s mentor. Replacing them was the intimate chamber musical, a “concept musical” that was character-driven rather than plot-driven. Here was a musical for adults that explored ideas reflecting the times in which the larger society lived, especially those of the upper-middle-class urban folk, the very people who frequented the theater.
This is the kind of “company” you will embrace with joy.
WHAT: FPAC presents “Company”
WHERE: Mayfield Village Civic Center, 6622 Wilson Mills Road
WHEN: Through May 14
TICKETS & INFO:
440-338-3171 or http://fairmountcenter.tix.com
Erin Diroll as "April," Natalie Green as "Marta," Connor O'Brien as "Bobby"
and Sarah Clare as "Kathy"
Erin Diroll as "April" and Connor O'Brien as "Bobby"
by Marjorie Preston
'Company' wins in charming production at Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory in Mayfield Village
Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory’s “Company,” with book by George Furth and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is by turns charming, aloof, hilarious and anguished.
What comes through is the palpable angst and pressure felt by Robert (Connor O’Brien) turning 35, living in New York and still single, knowing that at his party, he will be surrounded by married friends.
Robert is loved by these friends, who try to fix him up while honestly explaining that marriage has made them sorry and grateful at the same time. He is the outsider, sipping his drink, biding his time and treating his married friends like interview subjects, remaining disconnected. He deftly carries his part, using his pretty upper register in “Someone is Waiting” and both a powerful voice and sweet characterization in “Marry Me A Little.”
“Company” features a strong supporting ensemble and high caliber performances from Robert’s friends and his love interests.
Amy (Ursula Cataan) has a wonderfully hilarious turn as a bride with cold feet in “Getting Married Today.” The staging is excellent and Cataan has superb comic timing and rapid fire delivery. This number steals the show with its comic relief from Robert’s angsty, cool character.
Joanne (Tracee Patterson), on her third marriage, is even more fun and interesting when she’s drunk. Her second act performance is powerful, riveting and funny.
Sight lines are not great for those seated on the ends of rows during a few scenes, notably the opening scene, where the ensemble looks in on Robert and sings behind angled windowpanes.
Director Fred Sternfeld has brought some of Cleveland’s most incredible talent to the FPAC stage and the actors are giving it their all.
For “Company,” Boston-based Scenic Designer Trad A. Burns has designed Robert’s living room with cold feeling red brick pillars and grey brick walls – it’s more like the outside of a public library than a warm space.
We are told by April (Erin Diroll) that the apartment is intriguingly stylish, but Robert is a busy bachelor who lives most of his life outside his pad. There is also a multifunctional paned, rolling angled platform center stage used as bed, seating and dancing surface.
Bebe Weinberg Katz’s choreography mostly takes a backseat to dialogue and plot, though one notable highlight is the first act doo-wop number “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” featuring April (Diroll), Marta (Natalie Green) and Kathy (Sarah Clare), where the women express their frustration over Robert’s failure to commit. Jonathan Swoboda is on keyboards and conducts the fine orchestra hidden under the floorboards.
There are many fine moments that make this a production worth seeing.
“Company” runs through May 14 at the Mayfield Village Civic Center, 6622 Wilson Mills Road. Show times are Thursdays, and Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, call (440) 338-3171. The show contains some adult themes.
Lydia Hall as "Jenny," Ursula Cataan as "Amy," Connor O'Brien as "Bobby," Tracee Patterson as "Joanne," Abigail Allwein as "Susan" and Megan Elk as "Sarah"
Jim Jarrell as "Larry," Tracee Patterson as "Joanne" and Connor O'Brien as "Bobby"
Megan Elk as "Sarah," Connor O'Brien as "Bobby" and Aaron Elersich as "Harry"
Connor O'Brien as "Bobby" and Sarah Clare as "Kathy"
Aaron Elersich as "Harry," Megan Elk as "Sarah," Shawn Galligan as "Peter," Abigail Allwein as "Susan," Connor O'Brien as "Bobby," Ursula Cataan as "Amy," Rick McGuigan as "David," Lydia Hall as "Jenny," Michael Glavan as "Paul," Jim Jarrell as "Larry" and Tracee Patterson as "Joanne"
Rick McGuigan as "David," Lydia Hall as "Jenny," Shawn Galligan as "Peter," Abigail Allwein as "Susan," Connor O'Brien as "Bobby," Jim Jarrell as "Larry," Tracee Patterson as "Joanne," Ursula Cataan as "Amy," Michael Glavan as "Paul," Aaron Elersich as "Harry" and Megan Elk as "Sarah"
the cast and staff of Company ...
Allwein (Susan) is relatively new to Cleveland. Since
her arrival in August of 2010 she has been seen in as Grace in Annie
at Fine Arts Association in Willoughby, and as Susan in Don’t
Call Me Fat at the Cleveland Public Theatre. Previous to
her arrival in Cleveland, Abigail performed in Chicago, and enjoyed touring
with Emerald City Theatre’s production as Wendy in Peter
Pan. She was also featured as Mary Jane u/s in Stephen Foster
Productions’ Big River:The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn, as Gussie in Stephen Foster the Musical,
and as Vocal Soloist in Smokey Joes Café.
She holds a B.A. in Theatre from Huntington University where she was seen
as Cathy Hiatt in The Last Five Years, Marian
Paroo in The Music Man, Crystal in Little
Shop of Horrors, and Meg March in Little Women:
The Musical. She enjoys teaching Voice and Violin, as well
as doing Print and Commercial work in Cleveland.
Hall (Jenny) is thrilled to be making her first appearance
She has been fortunate to perform in five European countries and with
the Wesley Balk Institute in St. Paul, MN; the American Singers' Opera
Project in NYC; Boston Opera Collaborative in Boston, MA and with OperaWorks!
in Los Angeles. Locally, Ms. Hall has appeared in productions with The
Cleveland Public Theatre, Tri-C West, Opera Cleveland, Cain Park, The
Beck Center for the Arts, TrueNorth Cultural Arts and with The Cleveland
Orchestra and Blossom Festival Choruses. Favorite roles include the Mother
in Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors, the
Witch in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods,
Dinah in Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti,
and Woman 1 in Adam Guettel's Myths & Hymns.
Lydia holds her B. Mus. from Grand Valley State University and her M.
Mus. from The Boston Conservatory. A million thanks to Fred and all those
good and crazy people in our wonderful COMPANY!
McGuigan (David) is thrilled to be making his FPAC
debut and to work with this outstanding cast, crew, and Company. Rick’s
most recent stage experience was the autobiographical role of "Jon
Larson" (writer of RENT) in tick...tick...BOOM!
last spring at Cassidy Theatre. No stranger to the stage, Rick has performed
in numerous venues around northeast Ohio, where he was born and raised.
Favorite roles to his credit include Jesus in Jesus Christ
Superstar and Godspell, Joe in
Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,
Beast in Disney’s Beauty & the Beast,
Tony & Riff in West Side Story, Pippin in
Pippin, and Adam/Noah & Cain/Japeth in
Children of Eden. Rick’s stage experience
is complimented by having served on the executive theatre board of the
Mt. Carmel Players, actively serving on the board of Silhouette Productions,
who currently calls the historic Euclid Shore Theatre their home, as well
as special effects, sound, light, and general technical/production director
for several local venues. He attended GMI Engineering & Management
Institute (Flint, MI) and Cleveland State University, having studied mechanical
engineering and business management/marketing. Rick is president of Pine
Ridge Cleaning & Restoration, Inc., a cleaning and disaster restoration
firm serving the greater Northeastern Ohio area. His company provides
professional consulting and services related to the flood, fire, and smoke
damage insurance industry. Most recently he partnered with a colleague
to form Grand Rock Properties LLC, a real estate holding and rental management
company. Rick would like to thank his cast mates and staff who have warmly
and graciously accepted him into their tight-knit family. He would also
like to extend many thanks to friends, family, and colleagues who continue
to support this time-consuming hobby by attending performances, assisting
with rehearsals, and rearranging schedules for the betterment of the show.
As always, Rick's beloved friend Chuck is with him on stage each and every
performance -- shadowing his "silhouette" -- and has somehow
quietly re-instilled the excitement and therapy that live theatre provides.
Is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI).
All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI.
421 West 54th Street, New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-541-4684 Fax: 212-397-4684