‘Company’: Lyric, Sondheim are again a perfect match

The cast of the Lyric Stage Company of Boston production of "Company." Photo: Mark S. Howard

The cast of the Lyric Stage Company of Boston production of “Company.” Photo: Mark S. Howard

BOSTON – It can be said that “Company” ushered in a new kind of musical in 1970, a very adult, sleek, sophisticated look at relationships as seen through the eyes of a thirty-something single man in Manhattan.

It not only featured one of Stephen Sondheim’s finest scores but a witty, thoughtful book by George Furth, helping to propel it towards seven Tony Awards.

The Sondheim score features some heartbreakingly beautiful ballads (“Sorry, Grateful,” “Being Alive”) with some of his wittier tunes (“You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” “The Little Things You Do Together”).

Lyric Stage Company Artistic Director Spiro Veloudos continues his fruitful journey through the Sondheim canon with Lyric’s smart, savvy, delightful production of “Company” now through Oct. 9.

Leigh Barrett as Joanne with John Ambrosino and Will McGarrahan in "Company." Photo: Mark S. Howard

Leigh Barrett as Joanne with John Ambrosino and Will McGarrahan in “Company.” Photo: Mark S. Howard

Robert (John Ambrosino) is turning 35 and his friends have planned a surprise party, gathering in his apartment with gifts and advice – plenty of advice.

“Company” is a true ensemble show and while Robert is at the center of the universe, five married couples revolve in orbit around him, along with his three girlfriends: The hip, quirky Marta (Carla Martinez); the beautiful but vacuous stewardess April (Adrianne Hick); and the serious-minded small-town girl (and possible wife) Kathy (Maria LaRossa).

He’s committed to all and none at the same time, even expressing pangs of regret at one point that he never asked Kathy to marry him after Kathy informs him that she has decided to move away and get married.

Then there are the five couples whom he observes closely, even as they observe him, fretting over his lack of a wife and criticizing his choice of companions. Davron S. Monroe and Kerri Wilson are Harry and Sarah, both heavily engaged in a form of substance abuse while competing against each other for Bobby’s affections.

Matthew Zahnzinger – recently he seems to be everywhere on area stages – is Peter, amicably divorced from Southern belle wife Susan (Elise Arsenault), but still blissfully living in the same home with her and their children – he has responsibilities, don’t ya know.

At Robert’s suggestion, David (Todd Yard) and Jenny (Teresa Winner Blume) both ingest a popular drug with the predictable results, but their reactions to it puzzle Robert.

Erica Spyres, a frequent visitor to the Lyric, shines as the crazed bride Amy, who suffers cold feet and then some on the morning of her wedding to Paul (Tyler Simahk) in the frenetic, funny “Getting Married Today.”

Leigh Barrett as Joanne has a drunken proposition for Robert but her rendition of the searing “Ladies Who Lunch” could be just a tad sloppier and looser, as befitting her drunken state; Will McGarrahan is fine as her amiable if overmatched husband

“Company” was tweaked after its first Broadway run. The song “Marry Me a Little” was cut from the original production, later re-inserted and finally became the title tune for a Sondheim review of songs cut from his shows; a scene suggesting a possible homosexual encounter was cut and later reinstated.

“Company” isn’t really about the dancing, but Rachel Bertone’s choreography and especially her musical staging are superb – it’s no mean feat getting the entire cast on stage at once, especially for a Rockettes-style kick line in the Act II dance number “Side by Side by Side.”

Janie E. Howland’s cool blue cubist set design has multiple entrances and exits and allows the couples to both hector and observe Bobby, while Frank Meissner Jr.’s lighting provides for subtle changes in the time and place without drastic scenic changes.

Veloudos directs with an eye towards the nuances of the piece and because he just gets Sondheim, it doesn’t seem a job for him, more a labor of love, and that shines through in the efforts of the cast. His longtime collaborator Catherine Stornetta’s music direction is spot-on in performing a difficult score and is in perfect sync with the cast.

Just before Ambrosino embarks on the soul-bearing 11 o’clock anthem “Being Alive,” the final test for an actor playing Robert, he is urged to “Want something, Robert. Want something.”

Will he? “Company” leaves us rooting for Bobby to finally make that connection that will complete him as a person, and reminds us it’s our own desire to make those connections that defines us as human.

The Lyric Stage Company of Boston production of “Company.” Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by George Furth. Directed by Spiro Veloudos. Costume design by Rafael Jaen. Scenic design by Janie E. Howland. Lighting by Frank Meissner Jr. Sound design by Andrew Duncan Will. Presented by Lyric Stage Company of Boston, at Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon St., through Oct. 9. Tickets: $36-$73, 617-585-5678. www.lyricstage.com.

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