Review by Donna Hoffman of Company: Carnegie Theatre
Looking around at the audience before the opening number of Company at The Carnegie Saturday night, I made a note that the audience as a whole was definitely over 55. After the show, I wondered why the 35 and below crowd wasn’t there. If you are under 40 years old and have never seen Company you gotta see this one. Even if you have seen it before, you gotta see this production – to quote a line from this musical, “A festive atmosphere invades the room.”
This is the fourth time I’ve seen Company but the first time I’ve seen it directed by a woman. Corrie Danieley is commended for finding Robert/Bobby’s emotional dimensions played by Zachary Huffman especially his “Being Alive” piece. In fact, many of the characters had emotional textures that I’ve never noticed before. The casting had some wonderful surprises like the gothic Aiden Marie Sims (Marta) and mezzo soprano Kathryn Zajac as Harry. Deciding to put a lesbian couple, Zajac and Marta Backman Hyland (Sarah) into the mix gave the karate scene that frames “It’s the Little Things You Do Together” a whole new meaning. Delightful. April played by Megan Ainsley Callahan reminded me of Paula Dean, just clueless enough to say stupid stuff, but smart enough to know when the goose is cooked. Well, maybe Amy is smarter than the TV reality cook. Sara Kenny as Amy has terrific comedic timing and I didn’t stop smiling during her I’m not “Getting Married Today.”
I realized for the first time (I may be a late bloomer) that this is a simple, Jewish matchmaker musical and I had the lyrics “Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match” running through my head in between numbers. The women in Danieley’s concept are put in the forefront as the movers and shakers while the men are much like Robert/Bobby who lives around the edges.
Choreographing on The Carnegie stage can’t be easy, it’s a very shallow space. The set by Ron Shaw denotes multilayered skyscrapers and marble high rise apartments with sophisticated grays, deep purples and spots of red, and the four stage areas were necessary, but the second act solo dance number was inhibited and confusing. I understand that the modern dance is the subtext for the silent bedroom scene but the solo dancer needed a male partner for the symbol to work. “Side by Side by Side” opens the second act with a vaudeville kick complete with Robert/Bobby donning a black boulder hat as if he were Ben Vereen as the Leading Player in “Pippin.”
The only really disappointing scene in the entire production is “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Joanne played by Stephanie Louise Park is supposed to be completely plastered in that number. She wasn’t. I wanted her to just sit still at the table and sing that song to Robert/Bobby with a spot on her. This number creates the climax of the show and it was too weak. Also, once the dance club is established there is really no reason for anyone else to be on stage but the basic threesome.
I repeat…if for some reason you have never seen Company call The Carnegie box office and get a ticket. Bring someone along with you to keep you company.