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Theatre Information

Vagabond Players Company

By • Oct 24th, 2013 • Category: Maryland, Reviews
Company
Vagabond Players: (Info) (Web)
Vagabond Theatre, Baltimore, MD
Through November 17th
$22/$20 Senior, Military/$14-$16 Student
Reviewed October 18th, 2013

Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s groundbreaking musical comedy, Company, is a meditation on marriage, commitment, isolation, and compromise. Even now, over forty years after the musical debuted on Broadway, the show is still searing and relevant, and the legendary music and lyrics still impress. Truly, it would be difficult to present a production of Company that was not entertaining, given the quick-edit scenes and wide range of emotions, characters, and musical styles, and The Vagabond Players do not disappoint. Their Company features a cohesive ensemble of excellent singers who clearly relish the opportunity to sing these magnificent songs.

The audience learns about the characters through the eyes of Robert, who is celebrating his 35th birthday by excavating the relationships of his married friends and examining his past and current love interests in hopes of finding real meaning. Along with the rest of the cast, Tom Burns, as Robert, began the show on shaky ground, with sometimes tentative and sometimes forced vocals and awkward pacing in the first couple of scenes. Some of the performances felt stilted and tense, and the lighting, costumes, and set combined to give a very heavy, dark feel to the beginning of the show. However, the production recovered admirably, and by the end of the first act, not only had the ensemble created a believable chemistry of friends and lovers, but Burns had constructed an appealingly ambivalent Robert in whom the audience could invest.

The second act, by contrast, was a knock-out from start to finish. It began with a charming, joyful “Side by Side” featuring grin-inducing choreography by Ernie Ritchey (whose adorable staging of “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” was a first act highlight) and spot on vocals under Douglas Lawler’s musical direction. The show then moved to a brilliant marriage of staging, singing, and acting during “Poor Baby” and “Barcelona.” These songs, set during a date between Robert and flight attendant April (Amy Greco), showed the contrast between Robert’s private life as imagined by his friends and as it really existed. Burns and Greco had a sexy allure with one another while also managing to be very funny. Director Eric J. Potter staged this scene wonderfully well, seamlessly integrating the many different elements and creating humor and heartbreak in the same moments.

The act continued with Shannon Wollman’s blistering rendition of “Ladies Who Lunch.” Her voice was perfectly suited to the song, and she masterfully built it to its apex. In addition, Wollman, Joey Hellman (playing her husband), and Burns created fully formed relationships and palpable tension in the brief scene that surrounds the song. Finally, Burns had his finest moments in “Being Alive,” as Robert’s dawning understanding and insight take center stage. Without overacting, Burns took the audience on Robert’s powerful journey, while leaving traces of his ambivalence to prevent a pat conclusion.

Company is famous for being one of the very first “concept” plays with a non-linear plot. In keeping with the scattershot structure of the show, a few closing scattershot thoughts: Jennifer Viets’ solo in “Getting Married Today” was gorgeous, as was Jim Baxter’s hurt and disappointment in the same song. The neon sign and large New York skyline in Moe Conn’s set design was visually arresting. Shawn Doyle’s “Sorry-Grateful,” although started in a jarring manner, was touching and tender. Great songs, an interesting book, a charming and supportive ensemble, rich and beautiful voices, and very talented musicians made for lovely Company for the evening.

Photo Gallery

'Bobby and girlfriends': Lauren Everd, Tom Burns, Sarah Ford Gorman 'The guys':Jim Baxter, Tom Burns, David Minges, Troy Hopper
‘Bobby and girlfriends’: Lauren Everd, Tom Burns, Sarah Ford Gorman
‘The guys’:Jim Baxter, Tom Burns, David Minges, Troy Hopper
Bobby, a very popular bachelor, with the wives of his friends
Bobby, a very popular bachelor, with the wives of his friends

Photos by Ken Stanek

Cast

  • Robert: Tom Burns
  • Sarah: Rikki Howie
  • Harry: Shawn Doyle
  • Susan: Dianna Waller
  • Peter: David Minges
  • Jenny: Jennifer Viets
  • David: Troy Hopper
  • Amy: Molly Doyle
  • Paul: Jim Baxter
  • Joanne: Shannon Wollman
  • Larry: Roger Schulman (Joey Hellman on Oct. 18)
  • Marta: Sarah Ford Gorman
  • Kathy: Lauren Everd
  • April: Amy Greco
  • Conductor/Keyboard: Douglas Lawler; Michael DeVito
  • Percussion: Lisa Wood, Bill Watson

Production Team

  • Director: Eric. J. Potter
  • Musical Director: Douglas Lawler
  • Choreographer: Ernie Ritchey
  • Stage Manager: Margie Lake
  • Backstage Crew: Peggy Witowski
  • Lighting Design: Ed Lake
  • Set Design: G. Maurice “Moe” Conn
  • Set Construction: Moe Conn, Jay Demarco
  • Costume Design: Wil E. Crowther
  • Follow Spot Operator: Dennis Witowski
  • Photography: Tom Lauer
  • Production Photos: Ferd Mainolfi
  • Poster: Sherrionne Brown
  • Program: Barb Gehring
  • Box Office: Apryl Bancroft, Pat David
  • For the Vags: Carol Evans, Ann Mainolfi

Disclaimer: Vagabond Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

This article can be linked to as: http://showbizradio.com/go/9756.

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