College Try

By Huffman, Kristin | The Sondheim Review, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview
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College Try


Huffman, Kristin, The Sondheim Review


Connecticut's Trinity College presents Company

It felt very strange to witness a production of Company, a show I had recently performed in on Broadway. When the "Bobby, Bobbys" started, I instinctively reached for my flute and hummed my vocal part. But soon I was caught up in the lyrics and music and kept my flashbacks to a minimum.

This Company was part of "The January Musicals" at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., presented by the department of music. Gerald Moshell, a professor at this liberal arts college for 30 years, directs and produces three musicals in repertory for one weekend each January, always with the emphasis on the educational aspects of the shows. A Sondheim fan, Moshell showcased three Sondheim pieces in 2004: Sweeney, Company and Passion. This year, however, Company was the only Sondheim show, presented in rep with Nunsense II and You're a Good Man Charlie Brown.

As much as I respect teachers and their extraordinary efforts, I wondered if I could be objective about a show I have seen from the inside out. The fact that Company is about people in their 30s, 40s and 50s and would be performed by twentysomethings made me anxious. But many college productions of various musicals need to be seen through the filter of "this will be a great role for her in 20 years." So I sat back, still fingering my imaginary flute, and enjoyed the production.

The energy was contagious and, due to youth, quickly paced. Much of what was missing could have been addressed with less activity and more weight. That could be a product of age, and I applaud the efforts of the students and director. Young performers have a tendency to overact, but with Sondheim's score and Furth's script, this just isn't necessary.

Reminiscent of our Broadway revival directed by John Doyle, the set was sparse, with just black boxes and simple props. There was a keyboard onstage that was occasionally played by Christopher Houlihan, the actor who portrayed Bobby.

Harry (Bryce Snarski-Pierce) and Sarah (Samantha Moorin) avoided the pitfall of overplaying the comedy. The chemistry and subtle looks seemed natural and unforced. I felt a pang of jealousy that Sarah got to eat an actual brownie, but I found myself laughing as Harry swigged his real drink. The karate scene is funny whether the performers are separated or actually throwing someone to the ground. (George Furth told me that Sarah was based on Sally Kellerman, who actually did practice karate on her husband.) These actors never held back during the physical comedy, and audience members showed their appreciation in laughter and applause.

I longed for some of the other couples to add more space and trust the words. In doing so, they would have come across more authentically, especially since their characters are based on real people.

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