Review: ‘Company’ at McLean Community Players

Stephen Sondheim’s gloriously urbane, stylistic and sophisticated musical Company was groundbreaking when it first arrived on Broadway in the Seventies and it still remains relevant today. McLean Community Players are now presenting a most serviceable production of this exciting musical under the direction of Sharon Veselic who has stressed the positive aspects of this group of witty and sardonic New Yorkers.

Matt Liptak, Kristina Friedgen, Vanessa Miller, and Melissa Pieja. in Company at McLean Community Players. Photo by Irish Eyes Photography by Toby.

The music is the prime virtue here and that is as it should be, for isn’t this one of Mr. Sondheim’s most dazzling scores? As this group of married couples (plus three swinging single partners) worry about their single friend, Bobby, the audience easily becomes swept up with concern about “Bobby, Baby” as well.

A series of amusing yet perceptive vignettes and sixteen musical numbers unspool as the superb 12-member orchestra under the musical direction of John Edward Niles plays with sensitivity to the rhythmic, pulsating tones so indicative of this stunning score. As the music flows, Choreographers Melanie Barber and Kristina Friedgen have motivated the ensemble through some very intricately conceived numbers. The title number, “Company,’’ showed the full and complete joy of having friends in ones’ life. “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” showed the frustrations of the single life as people tried to connect, and “Side by Side by Side” was an unabashed celebration of solidarity amidst potential loneliness.

Bill Glikbarg’s set design is stylistically on-target as there is a metallic high-tiered platform in the middle of the stage and a metallic set of stairs on each side leading to a raised platform. This look adds to the urban ambience of the show.

The colorful look of the period is evoked with colorful costumes and accessories that, according to the program, were devised by the cast members themselves. Highly original! (Costume coordination was by Kate Keifer and Alana Sharp). Lighting Design by Lynne Glikbarg was perfectly appropriate for every scene.

The linchpin of this classic musical is the character of Bobby. Matt Liptak performs earnestly and has some relaxed moments of repartee and interaction. He saunters among the many differing groups of friends with confidence and delivers an intriguing interpretation of “Being Alive” that is delivered in a conversational musical style. However, it might have been advisable for the musical director to have transposed the key of his music lower so that it would fit Mr. Liptak’s vocal range better.

Kristina Friedgen (Marta), Vanessa Miller (Kathy), and Melissa Pieja (April) excel as the teasing trio in the zippy, bubbly song “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.” This number is pure syncopated joy.

Matt Liptak, Carla Crawford, and Scott Graham. Photo by Irish Eyes Photography by Toby.

Ms. Friedgen also excels in the song that epitomizes the frenetic pace of the urban lifestyle – namely, “Another Hundred People.” To me, this song is the ultimate tribute to the myriad moods and particular pandemonium of city life.

The wonderfully amorous and slyly witty “Barcelona” is performed with a blissful and radiant unselfconscious honesty by Ms. Pieja. The repartee between Pitka and Pieja was so perfectly timed and paced. There was such an air of light whimsy in the scene. In this scene, however, it made no sense for Mr. Pitka to have been directed to go under the covers of the bed without at least stripping down to his underwear. Most men take off their pants when engaging in a sexual liaison in bed.

The entire ensemble performed “What Would We Do Without You?” and “Poor Baby” with zeal and delirious joy and concern. Once again, the wonderful choreography by Ms. Barber and Ms. Friedgen was a decided highlight of the production; whenever the superior choreography was on display I was entranced. Ms. Barber and Ms. Friedgen choreographed each and every movement to mesh completely with each note of the stellar orchestra.

Alana Sharp as Joanne delivered a very intriguing rendition of “Ladies Who Lunch.” This song is Sondheim’s bitter attack on hypocrisy and pretension and Ms. Sharp performed it with the requisite acid air of resentment.

Kudos to Director Veselic for stressing the positive aspects of the characters and, thus, improving on the book by George Furth. Ms. Veselic deftly incorporated the text so that each scene moved fluidly and was incorporated into the production well.

Hearty commendations to McLean Community Players for presenting such a musically satisfying production of Company.

Running Time: Two hours, with one 15-minute intermission.

Company plays through February 19, 2017, at McLean Community Players performing at the Alden Theatre at the McLean Community Center – 1234 Ingleside Avenue, in McLean, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 790-9223, or purchase them online.

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David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.


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