Book by George Furth
Directed by Jonathan Berry
Music Direction by Allison Kane
Produced by Griffin Theatre Company
At Stage 773, Chicago
Jonathan Berry’s Company is a theatrical success!
Griffin Theatre Company, hopefully, will produce more musicals like their excellent mounting of Sondheim’s Company. We need more non-Equity musicals that gives both audiences and theatre professionals a chance to see major Broadway musicals as well as showcase new talent. Director Jonathan Berry has found some new talents as well as utilizing veteran Chicago players to populate Sondheim and Furth’s very New York and very adult non-linear, “concept” musical – Company.
The 1970 groundbreaking Tony winning musical is a series of vignettes set around Bobby – a bachelor upon his 35th birthday as his five married or soon to be married couples try to woo him into marriage. The entire show happens in an instant as Bobby reminisces about marriage as he contemplates each couples martial status. Ultimately, he must decide if he is ready for marriage, ready for commitment. Will he attend his own surprise birthday party?
Filled with humor, biting commentary on both married life, commitment, and loneliness, Furth’s book covers nicely the single alternative that was rare in 1970 but now has a large population. We see Bobby (Benjamin Sprunger) as the somewhat aloof, non-committalbachelor viewing the foibles and rewards of marriage verses freedom – of being alone verses living with someone you love.
Using the two-level chrome and glass set (design by Jessica Kuehnau), Company, Berry’s smart staging depicts white upper-class New Yorker’s quest to get Bobby to marry. From the opening movements in the title sing “Company,” we hear the chant “Bobby, Baby, Bubby” as he is being lured into marriage. Along the way, Bobby views his friends quirks in “The Little Things You do Together,” “Sorry-Grateful” and “You Could Drive A Person Crazy.”
The cast of does yeomen work in their couple-oriented comic sketches and their duets as well as in their deft ensemble movements. The “Side by Side Side” dance number was nicely choreographed by Erin Kilmurray. Dana Tratta nails the powerful anthem “Another Hundred People” and Allison Cain is wonderfully ascorbic “The Ladies Who Lunch, ” which was powerfully rendered.
However, Company rests on the shoulders of Bobby and I must state that Benjamin Sprunger played him with a proper detached and enigmatic turn just as the script necessitated. Sprunger has the good looks and the reserved smile that women find alluring. Sprunger was a tad shaky vocally early on but he nicely sang “Someone is Waiting” and the pivotal “Mary Me a Little.” His fine performance included charm, comic aplomb and a controlled distance from his married counterparts. I thought Sprunger delivered the resolving ballad “Being Alive” with a strong emotional core as he demonstrated with vocal chops. Sprunger effectively navigated through the difficult role of Bobby.
This tough to mount show is a rare gem that needs to be seen as it contains a multilevel assortment of comments on marriage verses being single, commitment, freedom, and being alone. Musically and lyrically, Sondheim’s tunes are challenging yet this cast easily sang them. You’d be hard pressed to find a finer production of Company. Kudos to Jonathan Berry and Griffin Theatre Company for selecting this landmark musical.
At Stage 773 (formerly the Theatre Building Chicago) 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL call 773-327-5252, www.stage773.com, tickets $32, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission.