Insight Opens Season With Strong Sondheim Classic: “Company”

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Bobby’s birthday is a time for contemplation in “Company” at Insight Theatre Company. Photo: John Lamb

Only the second musical that had music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and it won a slew of awards including a Tony for best musical of 1970. After quite an absence on area stages, “Company” has returned and Insight Theatre Company gives us a touching look back at this iconic production. A delightful cast gives this sometimes dark and sombre musical a wonderful treatment thanks to the spot-on direction of Doug Finlayson.

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Martin Fox as Bobby and Laurie McConnell as Joanne in Insight Theatre Company’s “Company.” Photo: Peter Spack

Bobby is turning 35 and is still single- a fact not lost on the five couples surrounding him in his apartment complex. Throughout the evening and beyond they offer advice- some good, some bad, some questionable- as they plan a surprise party that isn’t really a surprise. Add three of the girls he is currently seeing, and you’ve got a mix that keeps this show moving in several directions at once. Martin Fox captures the essence of Bobby in a spectacular performance that culminates in the most solid presentation of the epic finale, “Being Alive,” that I’ve ever seen. The character he develops throughout the evening makes his frightened plea in this song plausible and heart-wrenching.

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Cherylnn Alvarez and John Hey in “Company” at Insight Theatre Company. Photo: Peter Spack

The droll, almost stoic performance of Michael Brightman as Larry is a stand out as well. While Laurie McConnell as his wife, Joanne, brings a sexy, boozy quality to her and then just blows the roof off the theater with her rendition of another Sondheim classic from the show, “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Jonathan Hey as David and Cherlynn Alvarez as Jenny seem to be the most stable of all the couples as their comfort with each other and their life bolsters Bobby’s confidence in married life.

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Stephanie Long as Amy has a few doubts about “Getting Married Today” in Insight Theatre Company’s production of “Company.” Photo: Peter Spack

Phil Leveling as Harry and Meghan Baker’s Sarah always seem to be in competition with each other to the point of an impromptu karate match in their living room. Cole Gutmann as Peter and Taylor Pietz as the Southern charmer, Susan, are on the road to divorce but they are still together and seem to be in love- which adds to Bobby’s confusion. Which leads to him to another great Sondheim number that he crushes, “Someone Is Waiting.”

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Bailey Reeves, Melissa Gerth and Samantha Irene in the iconic “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” in “Company” at Insight. Photo: Peter Spack

Matt Pentecost is Paul and Stephanie Long is Amy and she does a great job with Sondheim’s breath-taking (literally) number, “Getting Married Today.” Finally we have the three women in Bobby’s life currently starting with the ditzy airline hostess, April. Bailey Reeves gives her real charm and she joins the other two in a striking moment in their love/hate relationship with Bobby in “You Could Drive A Person Crazy.” Melissa Gerth does double duty as Kathy and the show’s choreographer and shines in both roles. Finally, Samantha Irene plays the quirky Marta.

The impressive Peter Spack set design is a multi-level, modern look and Laura Hanson’s costumes are very effective. Although the show is somewhat dark in content, the actors should not be in the dark. David Blake’s lights are erratic- particularly on the extensively used upper level. Some singers get their heads cut off or are left completely in the dark.

Besides the lights, opening night was a bit ragged at times. But the show is so tight that those few missteps will be taken care of as the show continues. Also, it didn’t appear that the show was “updated” which means that the opening sequence in which Bobby uses a cell phone is a bit off-putting.

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The married couples brighten up Bobby’s Day with “Side By Side By Side” as the second act opens at Insight’s “Company.” Photo: John Lamb

“Company” is dear to the hearts of us long-time Stephen Sondheim fans who played the LP of the original cast until the grooves wore down. It’s good to see it holds up as a bit of nostalgia and Doug Finlayson and his cast has given us something we can love all over again. See “Company” at Insight Theatre Company through July 3rd. Contact them at 314-556-1293 for tickets or more information.

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