Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Renton Civic Theatre
Review by David Edward Hughes

Also see David's review of Cabaret

Kelly Ufford, Stephanie Maley Bull,
and Justine Rose Stillwell

Photo Courtesy of Renton Civic Theatre
When playwright George Furth created the basic premise for the landmark Tony Award winning 1970 musical Company, he stuck gold by teaming up with a then 37-year-old composer/lyricist named Stephen Sondheim. At the time Company opened on Broadway, Sondheim had written both music and lyrics to only one bona-fide Tony Award winning hit Broadway musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a decade earlier. That was followed up by a glorious, ahead of its time, legendary flop called Anyone Can Whistle which received mostly negative reviews, ran a mere nine performances, and is best remembered to this day by its original cast recording starring film stars Lee Remick, Harry Guardino and, in her musical stage debut, future musical comedy legend (and Sondheim muse) Angela Lansbury.

Company is receiving a very well thought out Puget Sound revival at Renton Civic Theatre under the innovative and passionate direction of Vincent Orduna, with able musical direction by Paul Linnes, and just right choreography by Stephanie Graham. With a completely non-Equity but solidly talented cast of familiar faces and up and comers in our region, the show features five good and crazy married couples and three single girls whose lives seem to pretty much orbit around 35-year-old, relationship gun-shy Bobby.

As played by the talented but green Matt Lang, this Bobby dims the entire show just a notch. Lang is obviously a trained actor and singer, but he does not (yet) have the capacity to plumb the inner darkness and id of Bobby. Instead, he gives a generally pleasant but too often dead-eyed acting performance, and worse yet never consistently hits the heights with his big solos "Marry Me a Little" and "Being Alive" (though he has his moments in the latter). He seems reticent and wanting to take a back-seat in scenes with almost all of his co-stars, and in some cases (such as his moments with Patricia Haines-Ainsworth's acidic yet ultimately empathetic Joanne), nearly fades from stage sight entirely. What Lang may be capable of (in say five years, with more life-experience and heartbreaks to inform his work) is apparent in his scene with his stewardess lay-over girlfriend April (a brilliant, original comic performance by top-tier actress/singer Kelly Ufford). Both Ufford and Lang nail their individual soliloquies and partner appealingly on the great Sondheim comedy duet "Barcelona." But the rest of Lang's performance is as uneven a turn as I have seen. Even a nifty shift in the entire dynamics of the show's final moments, courtesy of Orduna's fresh, funny and fabulous direction of the show, doesn't make Lang's performance rise above "if he'd only been" status.

And yet, the entire rest of the cast man the lifeboats and succinctly save the show, with the aid of one of Sondheim's best scores, natch. This includes slick and smarmily hetero (until his bi-curiosity weighs in) Samuel Jarius Petit's Peter, wisecrackingly winsome Emily Rose Frasca's Jenny, Arwen Dewey's southern-fried sweetheart Susan, James Cheek's tender-hearted Texan Larry, Andrew R. Coopman's sweetly smiling stoner David, Patricia Haines-Ainsworth's "Elaine who?" Joanne, Stephanie Maley Bull's moxie-empowered Marta, Britt Boy's softly sassy Sarah, Marc "Mok" Moser's hilariously hapless Harry, Sarah Olive-McStay's dotty but decidedly dear hearted Amy (the best "Getting Married Today" in my recent memory), Shane K. Smith's playful and purtily sung Paul, Justine Rose Stillwell's knowing yet nice Kathy, and, again, Kelly Ufford's utterly individual April. If this cast can be said to be anything, it can be said to earn a best musical ensemble of the year award, right beside Village Theatre's amazing Dreamgirls.

Alan Parsons' sound design dovetails the singers behind the beautiful but brassy band at times, and Helen Roundhill's costumes are a mixed bag—some on the money, some which seem to have wandered in from the "Aquarius" number in Hair.

So this triple-play scorer of a production sets a bar high above many if not most RCT shows I have seen. It is also coincidentally winding down at the same time as another worthy Sondheim revival, the supernaturally savory Sweeney Todd at Arts West. Praise to Buddha ... I mean, to the reigning god of musicals. That would be you, Stephen Joshua Sondheim.

Company at Renton Civic Theatre, 507 S. Third Street, through June 24, 2017. Visit for tickets and more.

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