Play review: An evening with this 'Company' will leave you smiling

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 20, 2012

By Deirdre Parker Smith
You’ll quickly understand why everyone is so enchanted by Bobby-baby in Piedmont Players’ production of “Company.”
Kristopher Watson is the standout in this Stephen Sondheim musical about marriage and the single life.
Watson, as Robert, has a perfect voice for Sondheim’s complex music and lyrics full of meaning.
He’s supported by a strong cast, including Piedmont veterans and newcomers. With singers like Debra Hubbard-Pastore, Jenny Carroll and John Brincefield, you’ll get all the best of Sondheim.
Others in the cast add to an ensemble that embraces the era of the 1970s and Sondheim’s memorable music.
So many songs are stories, especially “Getting Married Today,” featuring the adorable Amy, played by Lynne Harrell to perfection, and Paul, played by Jacob Asher. It encapsulates the lingering fear of commitment as Amy panics before her wedding.
Most of the cast are couples with varying traits — Sarah (Emily Bartsch, who played Roxanne in “Cyrano”) and Harry (Dan Ryan) engage in not so playful karate, then Harry and others sing the poignant “Sorry-Grateful” in tribute to their married lives.
Carroll, as Jenny, and Jason Roland as David do a very funny scene with Robert, smoking pot. Of course, they never inhaled. Jenny is the soft, caring girl Bobby longs for. Sarah is the unpredictable one, Amy the crazy one, and then there’s Susan and Peter, happily divorcing, played by Emily Schuttenberg and Justin Dionne.
The cynical Joanne is played by Greer, with husband Larry played by Brincefield. Joanne is the done-it-all voice of doom who’s desperately insecure and belts out the sarcastic “The Ladies Who Lunch.”
Bobby’s rotating girlfriends include the dumb stewardess (flight attendant) April (Jessica Walker) who finally submits and commits, to Bobby’s horror.
Kathy (Erin Fanelly) is a fun girl who wants to get married — just not to Bobby. And Marta is the free spirit who figures she has New York all wrapped up. In her hot pants and fringed vest, Hubbard-Pastore brings the ultra-1970s girl to life.
Rounding out the cast are Amy Seagle and Camee Forrest as the vocal minority.
Director Reid Leonard’s multi-level set keeps Bobby the focus of attention, almost like zoo animal, and there’s some groovy lighting, too, as well as groovy costumes.
The audience missed a few New York jokes that only someone who’s lived there would get. And they might not have caught on to some of the bitterness in Sondheim’s lyrics, always in contrast to a longing sweetness.
There are so many good songs, like “The Little Things You Do Together” that make perfect relationships; “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” “Another Hundred People,” and the plea from Bobby for somebody to make him feel something, “Being Alive.”
Although it’s set in the 1970s, it isn’t really dated — free love was a little freer then — but it’s a story of popular Bobby and his “Company” of married friends who only want him to be happy.
Leonard gets an A-plus on this one. He should be familiar with it. He played David in a 1973 or ‘74 production of “Company” at Catawba College — one which I remember; I had a crush on the entire male cast and my father, James Parker, designed the set.
With a 15-minute intermission, the play is over at 10 p.m. It may not be for the kids, although the music is good. They will not understand many of the references. But it is for any couple or single who loves someone.
“Company” is underwritten by Doran, Shelby, Pethel & Hudson PA; Ketner & Dees PA; John A. Basinger, Attorney at Law PA; Woodson, Sayers, Lawther, Short, Parrot, Walker and Abramson LLP, Attorneys and Counselors at Law; Davis & Davis PC; and Wallace and Graham. It continues tonight and Saturday and April 25-28 at 7:30 p.m. with a 2:30 p.m. matinee this Sunday at the Meroney Theater. For tickets, call 704-633-5471.