Seth Golay in “Company” (Photo by Tim Scott)
In 1970, Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” was a theatrical game-changer. Now, more than 40 years later, the music is still as captivating as ever but mounting a full-fledged production is tricky. There have been a handful of instances where new ground was truly broken (a recent West End gender-swapped version certainly stands out) but for the most part, when tackling such a classic, companies can be lucky to achieve much more than competency, just striving to live up to a score as complex and challenging as one of Sondheim’s.
Musical Theater Heritage’s latest production, helmed by Executive Artistic Director Tim Scott, definitely lives up to its material and then some, thanks to an exceptional cast and simple staging that puts the music front and center.
While a classic, “Company” is not exactly timeless. Many of its elements are glaringly dated today, least of all being the references to Sara Lee cakes. The show’s near-blanket depictions of nagging wives and its sexual politics in general–which are not just central to the plot but serve as its entire foundation–are entirely of its own time. MTH does not go full period with its production, but leans into its late-mid century themes with a sort of cabaret/lounge act setting, keeping the full cast onstage for much of the show, immersed in Danny Lawrence’s lush, low lighting.
“Company” famously forgoes traditional plot in favor of a more anecdotal vignette-style approach to the love life of its central protagonist, Robert–Bobby to his many friends. With an impressive belt and a face that projects a multitude of emotional depths, Seth Golay is a fantastic Bobby. But as with the original, it’s really the women who lead this show. Jessalyn Kincaid and Nedra Dixon fully deliver on the biggest showstoppers, “Getting Married” and “The Ladies Who Lunch,” respectively. And Mandy Morris’s great comedic aptitude as flight attendant April and a number of other rotating characters gives the entire show a welcome levity.
Jessalyn Kincaid, Mandy Morris, and Morgan Walker in “Company” (Photo by Cory Weaver)
As part of the show’s simplified cabaret aesthetic, the accompaniment is provided by just two musicians, both playing live on stage. Brian Padavic is on upright bass in the corner and center stage, at a piano adorned with rows of booze bottles, is Music Director Brant Challacombe, who also livens things up by silently playing the receiving end of a number of genuinely delightful comedic bits.
MTH’s “Company” might not exactly break any new ground but it delivers a fully enjoyable, emotionally rich, elegantly staged production of a beloved classic.
“Company” runs through November 21 at the MTH Theater at Crown Center, 2450 Grand Blvd. For more information, call (816) 221-6987 or visit musicaltheaterheritage.com