Nancy Sasso Janis
Another Stephen Sondheim work opened at Brookfield Theatre for the Arts (TBTA) on Friday evening on their excellent stage in Brookfield. ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ runs through Sunday at Sharon Playhouse and my first visit to TBTA was for ‘Into the Woods’ which also happened to be directed by Maureen Trotto.
With a book by George Furth and Tony Award winning music and lyrics by Mr. Sondheim, Company features a series of vignettes involving Robert, a bachelor about to celebrate his 35th birthday, and his married friends trying to convince him (and perhaps themselves) of the joys of being married. As he stands at the door to his not so surprising party, Robert (played very well by Erick Sanchez) recalls the slices of married life that he has been a part of, as well as some interactions he has had with three of his girlfriends.
The TBTA production is shiny and smart and does a great job with the tricky musical requirements under the direction of Brendon Fox. Mr. Fox played keyboard with only Allegra Pin on drums and Hector Ares on bass in the onstage pit, but it was just enough. The cast in all black were dressed by Carolyn Onorato, with just a few additional important additions of color as needed. New York City was nicely suggested by the set designed by Duane E.Langenwalter with wooden pieces that served every purpose when moved around by the cast members.
Todd Santa Maria’s choreography added much to the show stoppers like “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” and “Side by Side”/”What Would We Do Without You?” The guys didn’t have to dance as much for their “Have I Got a Girl for You” and “Sorry-Grateful’ but they sounded great together, although there were a few microphone issues throughout the show.
There was not a weak link in this cast of characters with only first names that I had to work hard to keep straight. Here’s hoping I got everybody in the correct role.
In the leading role of Robert, Mr. Sanchez was likeable and easy to watch with a wonderful tenor voice for all his solos. Lauren Brown (Maureen in TBTA’s ‘Rent’) was terrific as the neurotic Amy and helped make “Getting Married Today” one of the show’s highlights. Steven Cognato played her adoring husband to be.
Bennett Cognato (Roger in ‘Rent) played the husband of karate wielding Sarah, played by the powerhouse Kate Valiska (who was also excellent in TBTA’s ‘Godspell.’) Janice Gabriel returned to this stage to make us laugh as Jenny and Eli Patton of Danbury played her husband David. Sara Parille was the Southern belle Susan and John Mudgett (‘Rent’ and ‘Godspell’) played her husband Peter. Karen Robinson (‘Ragtime’ at the Warner) was amazing in the role of Joanne and made “Ladies Who Lunch” another highlight. Chris Fay played her sweet, rich husband David.
As Robert’s girlfriends, Anya Caravella was the flight attendant April and Shannon Gaffney used her lilting soprano to play the down-to-earth Kathy. Alexis Willoughy (‘Godspell’) took on the role of the sassy Marta and belted when necessary for “Another Hundred People.”
‘Company continues through Aug. 8.