Magazine article The Sondheim Review

With Love

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

With Love

Article excerpt

Portland staging of Company gets a lot from a little

Company is perhaps the most adaptable of Stephen Sondheim's musicals to an intimate setting and a smallish budget. Jane: a theater company, a new entity in Portland, Ore., and its director Corey Brunish have proven that thesis by creating a lush, crackling and appealing production with relatively limited resources.

Originally presented in Portland's Scottish Rite Temple, Company moved into the Dolores Winningstad Theatre in the Portland Center for the Performing Arts for this run (Sept. 24-Nov. 9, 2009). The Winningstad is a black-box theatre that can accommodate 292. Given that this production featured a full pit orchestra, the 200+ audience members filled every seat in the house - with good reason.

Against an extraordinarily simple set - a mural of the Manhattan skyline, in which different apartments were lit to show the location of the action, plus large wooden cubes used for tables, chairs, bars and beds - Brunish's large and capable cast kept the audience entranced. The non-Equity performers were perhaps better singers and dancers than actors; some line readings were rushed, particularly early in the show. But given that most of Company's emotional impact is carried by its songs, any minor deficiencies in acting were compensated for by fully professional musical performances across the board.

Andrew W. Foster, a former cruise ship entertainer, made an ideal Bobby. With his striking resemblance to a young Ted Danson, his too-ready grin and too-sincere demeanor perfectly manifested Sarah's remark that Robert "always looks like he's keeping score." The actor's apparent shallowness early in the show made the pain and anger in his "Being Alive" all the more electric. "Being Alive" is often sung joyously, as a song of redemption, but this company's choice was to present it ambiguously. Will Bobby find his true love? Foster and Brunish underscored that the answer is uncertain.

Foster was supported by an able group of married couples, with Kelly Stewart's Amy (perfectly cast, "skinny and blue-eyed") standing out with her hysterically fast, flawless and hilarious "Getting Married Today."

Melanie Shaw brought charisma and professionalism to Joanne's "The Little Things You Do Together" and riveted the audience's attention. …

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