Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see Jeffrey's review of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
The key to a successful Company is fast, masterful direction topped by sophisticated performances, both of which are sorely lacking. In one unfortunate instance, it scuttles the entire production. Bruce Linser, the director, has not mined the subtleties of Company and he has made an unfortunate casting decision in the central character of Bobby. As for the other men, they are all good in roles that are essentially ciphers. Josh Kolb, Clay Cartland, Larry Alexander, and Joshua McKinney do what they can in their scenes where the pauses in dialogue are endless and disturbing. Special mention to Wayne LeGette who does his professional best in the role of Harry.
The distaff side fares better. As Amy, the reluctant bride, Leah Sessa's "Getting Married Today" is a true tour de force. Ms. Sessa is a gawky, lanky riot. The panic in her face when reacting to the others is priceless and raises the bar. The performance that raises the bar to even greater heights is that of Erika Scotti as Joanne. For the first hour and 45 minutes, Joanne throws bon mots away to caustic effect, She's older and has "seen it all," with her gallery of ex-husbands and the highest intelligence quota on stage. Scotti, garbed in a stunning black jumpsuit, looks wonderful and spits out "The Ladies Who Lunch" in a manner that makes the iconic song, as well as the role, her own.
Laura Hodos, a wonderful performer, is sabotaged by a sound system that should have been perfected during tech. Every actor at one point has the "sound curse." I have seen several of MNM's productions in the past and this was never an issue. It needs to be rectified, fast. The technical problems throughout are jarring and unnecessary. Along with the glorious Hodos, we had the aforementioned Leah Sessa, Amy Miller Brennan, and Lindsey Corey. All the women are working actors in SoFla and capable of wonderment. In the case of the adorable Corey, she bemoans how she's "been there and done that," as Jenny, but looks all of 25!
Bobby's girlfriends are a mixed trio. Foremost is Mallory Newbrough as Marta, whose "Another Hundred People" brings the house down, with a voice that's a huge belt with beautiful lyric passages. This is a young woman who should be packing her bags for New York City. Adorable Nicole Kinzel plays April, the flight attendant. A beautiful young woman with a gorgeous smile, her "Barcelona" is everything it should be. The production team has cut the "Tick Tock" dance number and it Jinon Deeb with very little to do. That said, the trio's "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" is the proper homage to the Andrews sisters.
Robert William Johnston has been miscast in the starring role of Bobby. Johnston looks to be in his mid-20s, though Bobby is celebrating his 35th birthday and we need to believe what he says he has been through. The voice was simply not there at the performance attended, nor were the required acting chops. Johnston must be directed to react and interact with the other actors onstage and stop playing directly to the audience the entire performance. We need a seasoned Bobby who is vocally superior, and has the charm necessary to have the cast, not to mention the audience, love him.
A scene in which the character of Peter, played here by Clay Cartland, shows sexual feelings toward Bobby that was added by Sondheim years ago, is strangely missing from this production. It should definitely be put back and would give Mr. Cartland something to work with. Bobby's charm should be his sexual ambivalence; he's a walking Rorschach test, a blank slate that people can't quite figure out. This is all absent. Mr. Johnston has, for some inexplicable reason, been directed to perform various handstands, etc. during "Side by Side by Side" which adds nothing to the number. Just because someone "can" doesn't mean they "should."
In addition to the sound problems, Paul Reekie, the talented musical director, has his work cut out for him. This score should be played with a zest and pace that is missing here. Just listen to the dragging entr'acte bringing in act two to see what I mean. Then there are the women's costumes. Aside from the smashing Scotti jumpsuit, the women are so unflatteringly garbed I was confused. These are all sophisticated, affluent women. They deserve something more 1960s stylish. Clothing, sound, scenery, music and casting are all the responsibility of the director. The basics are there and if Mr. Linser could take the time to tighten up the show and get those cues picked up, the production and the audience would benefit tremendously.
Next up for MNM are La Cage aux Folles and Little Shop of Horrors. Knowing what pros MNM Productions' Ms. Gorman and Mr. Lifschitz are I am sure that the productions will be up to the level we have all seen in their past endeavors.
Company, through August 8th, 2017, at the Rinker Playhouse at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach, FL. For information and tickets, visit www.kravis.org or call 561-832-7469 Photo: Erika Scotti as "Joanne" Photo credit: MB Photo Styles