Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by George Furth. Cast: Dallas Street, Ann Elizabeth Ommen, Elizabeth Cassarino, Trisha Whitkanack, Susan Diane Fortenberry, Buck Zachary, Nicole Weiss, John Schumacher, Molly Roller, Mark Alan Hudson, Alex Zielke, Dave Schick, Julia Grossman, Leonard Rumery, Jared C. Beckley, Autumn Hatten, Dori Phelps, Kari Beth Warfel. Director: Randi Jennifer Collins Hard. Musical Director: Tim Schirmer. Choreographer: Marlana Hope Klenke. Scenic Designer: Martin Marchitto. Lighting Designer: Daniel J. Anteau. Costume Designers: Martin Marchitto and Amy Walker. Technical Director: Martin M. Bluestein.
Parkland College Department of Fine and Applied Arts through May 8. Parkland College Theater, 2400 West Bradley Avenue, Champaign. Box office: 351-2528.
It's really too bad there won't be a performance of "Company" next Monday at Parkland College, on the 29th anniversary of the Broadway opening of this brilliant, fascinating, seminal show.
When it opened, "Company" was new, different, striking...and a little scary, wedged between more traditional fare like "Applause" and "No, No Nanette" on the Broadway schedule. It certainly set Sondheim up as the man to watch when it came to musicals in the new age, and built up a devoted -- some might say cult-like -- following.
In fact, fans will be congregating in Chicago in early May for a special "Company" sing-a-long, where the audience is the performance, offering a chance for afficianados to sing the score they love so well.
And this is a score to remember, with deeply reflective character studies set to gorgeous music, a bouncy pop ditty, a rapid-patter number, and even a caustic jibe at New York's "Ladies Who Lunch."
Although there is a sort of a story here, "Company" is more of a concept musical, built around the character of Robert/Bobby, the last single guy among a sea of crazy, married people. Within his hip urban setting, Bobby longs for love and looks at marriage. Why is everyone married but him? Why can't he seem to find the right person?
When will the time be right for him, too, to let go of the married-couple company he keeps, and find someone to hold him too close?
"Company" doesn't really answer these questions; it just traces Bobby's path as he asks them, as he comes to the place where he can take a step forward into life.
The Parkland College production, directed by Randi Jennifer Collins Hard, is an impressive show from start to finish.
This cast truly seems to be a company, and they work very well together. There are even a few extra singers/players added to provide texture to various scenes. Director Hard has staged the action to emphasize the comedy and the ensemble nature of the show, and both are good choices. I especially liked the creative touch of adding a chorus with umbrellas to back up the wedding section.
Ensemble or no, the show never strays far from Bobby, and Dallas Street gives the character a winning, starry-eyed sweetness. When he sings "Someone Is Waiting" and "Marry Me A Little," you can see the heart pinned to Bobby's sleeve.
When it comes to the big finale -- a killer of a song called "Being Alive" -- Street also sings well, although he could use more passion, less control, as it climbs to the end. Still, Street succeeds in projecting a tricky character.
Others of note in the cast are the hilarious Alex Zielke, who navigates the rapids of "Getting Married Today" with loads of charm; Trisha Whitkanack, who offers a bright performance of a dim character; and Elizabeth Cassarino and Ann Elizabeth Ommen, Whitkanack's partners on the zippy "You Could Drive a Person Crazy."
Ommen is also excellent on the seldom-seen Tick Tock dance, while Cassarino sounds good on "Another Hundred People."
Martin Marchitto's snazzy skyline set design is terrific, showcasing this "Company" with pizzazz.
Less welcome on the production side -- sound problems on opening night, with some voices and the orchestra coming off muted or fuzzy, and a somewhat murky lighting design that left actors in shadow too often.