Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In Sondheim's 'Company,' a Birthday Shakes a Bachelor to the Core

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In Sondheim's 'Company,' a Birthday Shakes a Bachelor to the Core

Article excerpt

When "Company" debuted in 1970, it must have felt like Manhattan set to music.

Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the music and lyrics, and George Furth, who wrote the book, created a sharp series of portraits of reasonably affluent, reasonably contented married couples, all of them friends with a charming bachelor named Bobby.

But it's Bobby's 35th birthday. The occasion prompts him to look at his relationships with those couples and with the women he sees and re-evaluate the kind of life he wants to live.

Insight Theatre is opening its 2016 season with "Company," under the direction of Doug Finlayson. It's still a smart, surprisingly moving production in large part because Martin Fox, as Bobby, gives an apparently shallow character hints of unsuspected depths.

His delivery of "Someone Is Waiting," in the first act, is particularly effective. Sondheim's brilliant lyrics find our hero longing for a wife who doesn't exist, an amalgam of the married women he knows ("A Susan sort of Sarah/ A Jennyish Joanne").

It could be and to some extent, perhaps it is a defensive, self- justifying fantasy. But Fox invests the song with a hint of melancholy, and maybe even fear. What if there isn't anybody for him after all?

He turns the tender song into an apt precursor to "Marry Me a Little," the song that ends Act 1 with Bobby pleading for an unlikely combination of devotion and distance. Together, they built a road that leads to "Being Alive."

When he sings that, at the end, Bobby has come to realize that he can't control love. He needs to let it control him.

Fox, Finlayson and the small orchestra, led by Catherine Edwards Kopff, use these songs to establish Bobby as a fully fledged character who, in the course of one evening, opens himself to real emotional growth. Fox negotiates the transitions subtly but by the end shows us a new man.

The married friends Phil Leveling, Meghan Baker, Jonathan Hey, Cherlynn Alvarez, Cole Gutmann, Taylor Pietz, Matt Pentecost, Stephanie Long, Michael Brightman and Laurie McConnell are fun as they reveal different perspectives on marriage. …

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