I would never have known that the Steeple Players were producing Stephen Sondheim's Company if it hadn't been for my school and theater buddy Pam living in Southington and the blog posts that I wrote describing my return to the stage in The Last Supper: A Musical Enactment at the Phoenix Stage. (Click here to read the first in the My Life in the Theatre series.) She happened to be reading her copy of The Southington Citizen and came across a column written by the editor Julie Sopchak about her experience at an audition for this musical comedy at the First Congregational Church. It struck her how similar it was to the first post I had written. As we often exchange publications of interest to each other, she ripped out the first installment for me and we quickly decided that we would attend a performance together. I looked forward to each weekly description of the rehearsal process as the dates of the performances approached.
We decided to make a night of it and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a busy restaurant close to the church called Anthony Jacks Wood Fire Grill. I highly recommend the grilled shrimp and making a reservation. A short walk across the town green brought us to the entrance to the Peace Cafe in the lower level of the church. A very intimate space with a raised platform with no real scenery at one end and no real backstage was set up with folding chairs for open seating. The musical director Alan Dougherty was seated at the piano and a pretty impressive lighting system was in use.
The director Richard McCarty professes to be hooked on Sondheim, but acknowledges that "this music is very hard and the words are intricate and insightful." The mission of the Steeple Players has been to bring thought provoking work to the church in a kind of drama ministry. Company tells the story of Bobby, who is examining his life as a single man through the eyes of his married friends and his three girlfriends. Not exactly linear in presentation, it is considered to be a concept musical presented in short vignettes.
Some may not appreciate the intricacies of the music, nor the complexities of the story. I'll admit I read a detailed synopsis before I attended the show and it helped. Being a Sondheim lover did too.
The director did a very impressive job of blocking each scene in this limited space and no sound amplification was necessary. The light dance and movement fit the space. Mr. Dougherty made sure that the musical numbers were balanced and in perfect harmony, even in the dissonance. I loved "Another Hundred People" and "Getting Married Today." While the voices of the ladies in the cast ranged from very good to excellent, all of the husbands sounded great.
The cast is led by the strong acting of Kris Bates in the pivotal role of Bobby. The wives include Heidi Bass-Lamberto as body-consious Sarah, Lori Holm as the neurotic Amy, true soprano Anne Sharmick as the sweet Jenny, Belle Broderson Chirico as cynical Joanne (the Elaine Stritch role) and Kelly Stuper as the Southern belle Susan. The respective husbands were Tony Lamberto (Heidi's real life husband) as the affable Harry, Ed Rosenblatt as Paul, Scott Smith as controlling David, John Zimmerman as the understanding Larry, and Thomas Quinn as the possibly gay Peter in the best blue leisure suit.
The girlfriends included the comically on target Merriah Currao as flight attendant April, Elizabeth McManus as Kathy, and Ms. Sopchak as the tough Marta. For someone who doesn't have much acting experience, she did an admirable job with the role. The cast members had to supply their own costumes and they did so admirably. While some would have benefited from a little tailoring, Ms. Holm as Amy looked amazing in her seventies print dress and big hair.
Overall this was a very good production of a unique show. As Ms. Sopchak chronicled in her column, the cast worked very hard at putting it together and it showed. Company continues next weekend at 7:00 pm on Friday and Saturday. In 2013, the Steeple Players will present a teen event in February and the classic Fiddler on the Roof in the spring.