The McLean Community Players and The Alden Theatre are proud to present their production of George Furth and Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Company,” opening on Friday, Feb. 3 and running weekends through Feb. 19.
The play revolves around lead character Bobby – a chronic bachelor who resists the idea of a committed relationship, much less the institution of marriage – the married couples who are his closest friends, as well as his three girlfriends. Though Bobby is reluctant to settle down, he is curious about and observant of the psychology and intricacies of marriage and relationships.
Following the show’s debut on Broadway in 1970, it was nominated for 14 Tony Awards, winning six including “Best Musical,” “Best Score” and “Best Lyrics.”
“It was Sondheim’s vision of marriage and relationships. You have to realize the theater industry back then… people were still closeted; we had the AIDS issue going on. His vision is very harsh, it’s very negative. And the one thing that we all would say is, ‘Gee, I love the music but I can’t stand any of these characters,’ and you just didn’t like Bobby,” explained director Sharon Veselic. “The basic relationships were just difficult and no one agreed with it. I think that was the problem back then. Marriage and relationships have changed. It’s a beautiful story if you have some faith in Bobby and if you really hope that he’s going to make it.”
In contrast with the traditional method of telling a story on a linear path, “Company” is comprised of a series of interconnected vignettes through which the audience, along with Bobby, observes the dynamics of his friends’ relationships. The music of Stephen Sondheim, once again going against theater norms, is interwoven into Furth’s script so the story is not interrupted by musical numbers, but rather it is furthered by them.
“He’s brilliant. His music is like no other,” praises Veselic of Sondheim, who she sees as the King of Broadway. “As a director, I just say, ‘look, if you audition, you better be able to sing his music.’ It’s extremely difficult, [with] the key changes, and the patterns that he puts in songs, and the fact that you must act because of that script continuing within the lyrics. It’s a lot to ask of any actor. You usually get the best of the best that step up.”
Donning the part of Bobby is Matt Liptak, in a very challenging debut role with the McLean Community Players.
“Sondheim, as anyone who is familiar with his work knows, he loves his words and he writes these very complicated, very thought-provoking songs,” said Liptak. “The lyrics are very tense, they’re very loaded. The words and sort of mastering Sondheim has been a challenge.”
While the lyrics of Sondheim are of a heavy subject matter, Veselic and the McLean Community Players have done their best to lighten the mood of the play, while retaining the overall feel of the time period in which “Company” is originally set.
“We’re keeping it in the ‘70s but we’re definitely coming at it with this idea of, ‘what does it mean today?’ One of the big things that Sharon has talked about is that the original production in the ‘70s was very cynical,” said Liptak. “We’re trying to make it more lighthearted, we’re trying to make it funny. It is a comedy, [though] it has very serious moments. We’re playing up the humor; we’re playing up the compassion because I think that’s more real than being cynical. We’re trying to make it human, we’re trying to make it more modern in a way [that says] love is important and it’s complicated.”