A Second Look: Review of TBTA’s Company

Alicia Dempster

Company, one of Stephen Sondheim’s iconic musicals currently being staged at The Brookfield for the Theatre Arts, tends to be a favorite among the composer’s aficionados. Under the direction of Maureen Trotto, this production is slick and well-paced with some standout performances. 

Bobby, the central character of the musical, finds himself contemplating relationships, commitment and marriage as he celebrates his 35th birthday. Unlike other standard Sondheim pieces like Sweeney Todd or Into the Woods, this piece comes off as a bit dated. When it originally debuted in 1970, the notion of marriage being a touchstone for a successful, fulfilling life was much more plausible than today, when marriage is more of an option than a requirement for happiness. 

Photo Credit: Stephen Cihanek

Photo Credit: Stephen Cihanek

Despite the fact that the company of Company skews on the young side, this cast is a talented one and they pull together to present a cohesive and entertaining production. They tap into the humor of the piece well but some of the more poignant, painful moments are slightly less effective which, perhaps, could be attributed to their age.

In the role of Bobby, Erick Sanchez, does an admirable job with such a demanding role, especially in his first musical theatre role. A trained opera singer, Sanchez’s tenor is powerful and lilting. He brings a certain charm and likability to the role and when he is relaxed and at ease with the moment, he truly shines.

Bennett Cognato and Kate Valiska have honed their comedic skills during an early scene when verbal banter between the couple evolves into a full-on karate match. Likewise, Janice Gabriel is hysterical during the scene in which she shares a joint with her husband and Bobby, exhibiting a strong chemistry between the three actors. 

In the role of Amy, Lauren Brown shines and amazes with “Getting Married Today.” Ms. Brown has been a forceful presence in the local musical theatre scene. Her inimitable voice, combined with her incredible acting talents and stage presence make her an ideal candidate for professional musical theatre.

The three actresses that portray Bobby’s girlfriends each bring solid performances, each with substantial acting and musical theatre chops. Shannon Gaffney portrays the role of Kathy earnestly with a pristine soprano underscoring “Getting Married Today.” As the vapid April, Anya Caravella is sincere with the perfect dash of comic timing. Her work in the song “Barcelona” brings a pleasant surprise of a formidable singing voice as well. As the cantankerous Marta, Alexis Willoughby delivers both in character and in voice. Having seen Ms. Willoughby recently portray several caustic roles, it would be nice to see her take on a more likable character.

Creatively, as is customary of a Trotto/Langenwalter production, the show is tight. The set design, replete with city landscapes and a versatile modular set, serves the multiple locales and the production quite well. Carolyn Onorato’s costume design, in various combinations of black and white, are stunning. Todd Santa Maria’s choreography lends a great energy to the ensemble numbers and Stephen Cihanek’s lighting generally serves the production well, although there were moments when the actors were sometimes in near darkness.

For anyone that is a fan of Sondheim, The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts production of Company delivers a solid ensemble musical with several standout performances. Despite the fact that Sondheim’s intended impact sometimes misses the mark, it is an opportunity to see a well-produced musical with some of Sondheim’s most recognizable and beloved songs. 

Company runs at The Brookfield Theater for the Arts through August 8th. For tickets and additional information, visit www.brookfieldtheatre.org.