Company Still Moves Us

By Carter, Alice T. | The Sondheim Review, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

Company Still Moves Us


Carter, Alice T., The Sondheim Review


Pittsburgh production moved Robert and his friends to the 21st century

When Ted Pappas, the producting artistic director of Pittsburgh Public Theater, began designing a season of masterpieces there was never any question that Company would be included. "[The show's] 1970 Broadway debut set a new standard for the Broadway musical in its cohesion of presentation, and the musical writing changed the standard of Broadway," says Pappas, who identifies himself as a rabid Sondheim fanatic. "It's one of the standards one measures new musicals against in the present day. It dared in its subject matter, tone and structure - and it succeeded." Pappas believes that, in collaboration with book-writer George Fürth and producer/director Hal Prince, Sondheim broke new ground with Company.

Based on a set of playlets by Fürth about New York City marriages, Company revolves around Robert, still single on his 35th birthday. Though he says he's ready to be married, he remains uncommitted. His wry, often humorous visits with five couples showcase the pros and cons of marriage.

Unlike other musicals such as West Side Story or A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum on which Sondheim had worked, Company does not have a beginning, a middle or an end. It has a finale but no resolution, leaving the audience to decide for themselves what happens to Robert.

"It was the first plot-less musical. Its structure is circular rather than sequential. You can rearrange the scenes in any order, and Company's point of view continues to reverberate," Pappas says. "It has a savvy build-up in that scenes follow scenes and numbers follow numbers. But they could be moved around and have the same cumulative effect."

The score was also innovative, Pappas says. Though it contains at least two of Broadway's most iconic songs - "The Ladies Who Lunch" and "Being Alive" - the score departs from its traditional functions. The songs don't tell the story nor are they integral to the action, Pappas says. "They serve as commentary - a concept which was innovative and unconventional, to say the least. It is the fitting centerpiece of our masterpiece season." Pappas is so fond of the musical that he assigned himself to direct and choreograph Company (Jan. 23-Feb. 23, 2014) at the O'Reilly Theater. …

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