Mix together a middle aged single man, a bevy of married friends, some occasional girlfriends, then stir the pot. Add some music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; pick a talented director and a spirited musical director; and sprinkle in an ensemble cast of talented singing actors. And the result, Company, another strong production from OCTA (Olathe Civic Theater Association).
OCTA chose Company to jump start their 2013-14 season and gave the project to Jason Coats to select and direct the Tony Award winning piece that centers on the life of Bobby, a single man with too many well-intentioned married friends. Coats found the right mix for the ensemble cast requirements and brought a wealth of talent to the OCTA stage. Central to his direction means the selection of the lead, Bobby, (Ken Koval) who remains on stage throughout the production and interacts with each of the supporting cast.
Casting Koval means a strong vocal lead for the production of Company and an actor that blends well with the ensemble of characters throughout the piece. Koval’s vocal talents get a workout with the difficult score and the extended range dictated by the music. He uses low register to high falsetto with power, emotion, and feeling. His singing remains the centerpiece of the show.
The Company ensemble consists of Rachael Adcock, Erica Baruth, Debbie Blinn, John Edmonds, Brad Light, Teal Holliday, Dennis Maddux, John Robinson, Katherine Ruprecht, Simon Schupp, Alecia Stultz, Ali Watson, Jenni Wilson. Give credit to each of them for creating characters that smack of reality and everyday lives.
Koval’s Bobby drops in and observes his married friends over the course of the New York based show and observes their lives while he explores their marriage. Each couple displays its strengths and weaknesses. Bobby must be friend, confidant, counselor, referee, catalyst, best friend, sexual target and more as he spins from one couple to the next. Koval moves effortlessly through each encounter while deciding if marriage lies in his future. He sees the strengths and weaknesses of all and carefully decides his path.
Along the way, Bobby reflects on three girlfriends up for his approval or disapproval as he also sees their strengths, weaknesses, and individual craziness. Each represents people everyone knows from somewhere in their life.
Of the ensemble cast, each couple brings plenty to the mix, Some of the pieces that draw interest are scenes with Watson and Robison to open Bobby’s observations into married lives. Their martial arts challenge brings plenty of laughs. Baruth and Edmonds get even more laughs as a couple rediscovering the effects of non-medical marijuana. Adcock and Light bring fun as the couple finally getting married after years of living together. Blinn and Maddux show the effects of longer lives and several divorces. All provide fun vignettes for the audience. The other couple, Stultz and Schupp vary in that their bit focuses on impending divorce and strays from the comedic scenes of the balance of the cast. Each vignette gives glimpses of the types of situations Bobby explores in his quest to find the meaning of marriage. The observations and encounters range from innocent friendships to uncomfortable sexual dalliances. All are great.
Musical director Todd Kendall Gregory-Downs selected several musicians to work through Company's difficult score. Originally, the New York version planned for full blown orchestration, but Gregory-Downs minimized the musical accompaniment to a small band of three keyboards and one percussionist. Although the score challenges musicians, they performed admirably and no one would miss the enormity of the original orchestration.
The singing performances that stand out are Adcock’s “Not Getting Married Today;” “Drive a Person Crazy,” by a trio of girlfriends, Holliday, Ruprecht, and Wilson; “The Ladies Who Lunch,” by Blinn; and of course, the finale, “Being Alive,” sung by Koval.
As for the funny acting performances, cheer for Adcock’s Amy, Schupp’s Peter, Watson’s Sarah, Maddux’s Larry, and Robison’s Harry. Take nothing away from the balance of the ensemble, because they all add to the success of Company. Sometimes the script just did not allow them to fully delve into more complex characterizations. Each and every cast member evokes smiles in their scenes.
For OCTA’s Company, Koval provides the correct adhesive to cement the piece together and blend from couple to couple as his character reminisces past encounters as he floats in and out of their lives. Company comes highly recommended for adults. The show contains no adult language, but the concept is probably not one that would hold interest of younger audiences.
Company runs weekends through Sept. 22 with evening performances at 8 and Sunday afternoon matinee performances at 2. Tickets may be purchased online or at the door. For online sales: olathethratre.org