An enthusiastic round of applause could be heard from The Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater this past Sunday. It was all in response to Company, The Kennedy Center's second offering in its much anticipated Sondheim Celebration. Originally presented on Broadway in 1970, this newest version provides a dynamic look at a Sondheim favorite.
Company introduces us to Bobby, who is single, living in New York, and liking his life the way it is. As his friends gather to celebrate his 35th birthday, they share their concern for his continuing bachelorhood. While the musical progresses, we learn more about the relationships of his friends and Bobby's own indecision about getting married.
The classic score by Stephen Sondheim and the book by George Furth is as intriguing as ever. Director Sean Mathias embraces the material, shaping it into a production that successfully highlights the more comical moments without losing focus of the more thought provoking aspects of the show.
This is achieved in part, with the help of the production's gifted lead actor, John Barrowman (Putting It Together, Sunset Boulevard). Mr. Barrowman's Bobby is the embodiment of the appealing thirtysomething bachelor. Yet, this Bobby also has depth. He doesn't just go through the motions. His inner conflicts are revealed and wholly felt. Combine that with an outstanding singing voice and it is no wonder that this man takes center stage.
Mr. Barrowman is joined by a stellar cast, including veteran of the stage and screen, Lynn Redgrave. Ms. Redgrave delivers an admirable performance as the crusty Joanne. At first glance, she may seem to lack the essence that is so unique to this character. Nonetheless, by the second act she stops the show with "The Ladies Who Lunch," and all doubts are put to rest.
However, the Scene Stealer of the Year Award should be given to Broadway alum Alice Ripley (Sideshow, Rocky Horror Show) for her portrayal of the quirky Amy. Her mere presence demands attention and her performance of "Getting Married Today" is impeccable.
As Bobby's well intentioned friends, equally strong performances are given by Emily Skinner, Mark Vietor, Matt Bogart, Keira Naughton, David Pittu, Christy Baron, Dan Cooney, and Jerry Lanning. Additionally, Marcy Harriell, Elizabeth Zins, and Kim Director add a dash of color as Bobby's girlfriends.
For the most part Jodi Moccia's choreography is enjoyable. She shows her understanding of the piece during "Side By Side" with a lovely dance that illustrates how alone Bobby truly is.
The set design by Derek McLane pays homage to New York City with the use of horizontal skyscrapers that give the whole set an industrial feel. Catherine Zuber's costumes work well for the '70s era piece but her greatest accomplishment is Amy's outrageous wedding dress.
With its inventive score, Company is Sondheim at his best. Add to that, Jonathan Tunick's delightful orchestrations, as performed by The Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, and the result is a rich theatrical experience. Company runs through June 29th.
The Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater
Robert: John Barrowman