Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

San Francisco Playhouse

Also see Richard's review of Call Me Miss Birds Eye: A Celebration of Ethel Merman and Eddie's reviews of Life Is a Dream and Gruesome Playground Injuries

Christopher Reber, Michael Scott Wells, John Paul Gonzalez, Ryan Drummond, and Richard Frederick,
with Keith Pinto (center)

I have seen Company ten times over the years, starting with the original at the Alvin Theatre in New York during the summer of 1970, with Dean Jones as Bobby and the fabulous Elaine Stritch as Joanne. As soon as I heard Ms. Stritch sing "The Ladies Who Lunch" it became my all-time favorite. San Francisco Playhouse, under the firm direction of Susi Damilano with a brilliant cast, is presenting this wonderful musical through September 10th.

Company was among the first musicals to deal with adult themes and relationships. When it was in its first previews in Boston the critic for the Evening Globe said "As it stands now it's for ladies matinees, homos and misogynists." He was so wrong, and the show went on to receive a record-at-the-time fourteen Tony Award nominations, winning six. Stephen Sondheim's score is one of his greatest accomplishments, and George Furth's book sparkles with an almost complete lack of obligation to intelligible narrative.

Company is about Robert, or Bobby, a New Yorker on the eve of his 35th birthday, a man who thinks that marriage is not just a word but a sentence—a jail sentence. Yes, he does have girlfriends who are not into marriage and a collection of self-righteous married friends who try to explain to him the advantages of married life. Bobby is wondering if it's time for him to change.

Susi Damilano has assembled an outstanding cast of 15 actors and singers. They loom like a mirage on an outstanding two-tier set platform designed by Bill English and Jacquelyn Scott with severe minimalism and striking projections by Micah Stieglitz on a huge wide screen showing Manhattan scenes. Keith Pinto is one of the best Bobbys I have ever seen; you can feel the pain of the character as he goes through an emotional meltdown. At the end, when he is singing "Being Alive," it's clear that Bobby has awakened from his past life of bachelorhood and just sleeping around. He is ready for a commitment. Pinto has awesome vocal chops on this number.

Stephanie Prentice is terrific as Joanne. She makes "The Ladies Who Lunch" her own, singing it with the wonderful grimace of a lioness. Monique Hafen shines as the panicky Amy and when she nervously sings "Getting Married Today" you want to get up and cheer. Teresa Attridge as Marta with vibrant vocal cords beautifully sings "Another Hundred People."

Velina Brown, Morgan Dayley, Michelle Drexler, Ryan Drummond, Richard Frederick, John Paul Gonzalez, Christopher Reber, Abby Sammons, Nicole Weber, and Michael Scott Wells perform their roles with panache.

I'd be remiss if I did not mention Kimberly Richards' wonderful choreography for the opening of the second act, when all of the cast do fancy footwork with canes in hand. It certainly is a show stopper. Dave Dobrusky, with the help of Ben Prince, has adapted the Sondheim melodies into splendid two-piano arrangements.

The San Francisco Playhouse production of Company runs through September 12th, 2015, at their theatre located at 450 Post Street, San Francisco, 2nd floor of the Kensington Park Hotel. For tickets call 415-677-9596 or visit Coming up next is the world premiere of Lila Rose Kaplan's 1 2 3 as part of the Sandbox Series at the Tides Theatre, 533 Sutter Street, San Francisco. The company will open their 2015-16 season on the main stage at 450 Post Street, San Francisco, with the musical Dogfight beginning September 26th.

Photo: Jessica Palopoli

- Richard Connema

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