Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim. Book: George Furth. Igantions Musical Society. Roundhouse Theatre, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane. 20 June – 5 July 2014

Ignations continues exploring Stephen Sondheim’s musical theatre canon with a well-sung and well-acted in-the-round production of his groundbreaking non-linear 70s musical Company.

Although a product of its time, and today dated, it’s still a musical that packs a powerful punch.In a series of musical vignettes and playlets the institute of marriage and/or relationships is explored, vivisected, and exposed in a brutal and corrosively honest way. Set in New York City, a set of upwardly-mobile WASP married friends give a surprise 35th birthday party for singleton Robert.

As the protagonist, ex Ten Tenor Bradley McCaw handled his character’s material with professional ease; whether smoking pot, bedding his air hostess girlfriend April, or building the emotional impact of Robert’s ultimate cry-for-help “Being Alive,” he was right on the money. As his friends, Tammy Sarah Linde (Sarah) and Chris Kellett (Harry) gave strong performances as a couple trying to hide their eating and alcohol demons, as did the soon-to-be-divorced Jordana Peek (Susan) and Stephen Hurst (Peter), with Lauren Ware and Josh Whitten being delightfully funny as the trying-to-be-forever-young Jenny and David.

The score is littered with vocal show-pieces and this cast did not disappoint. Erika Naddei artfully delivered “Another Hundred People,” Lisa Marie Gargione’s Amy was brilliantly showy in “Getting Married Today” (although her partner Cameron Rollo had pitch problems), while Susan Stenlake revelled in the cutting put-downs of “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Heidi Enchelmaier, Aurelie Roque, and Erika Naddei were musically spot on as a 40s sounding Andrew Sisters trio on “You Could Drive A Person Crazy,” while the company scored with the opening title tune and the vaudeville-like “Side by Side” and “What Would We Do Without You.” Individually Chris Kellett, Josh Whitten and David Knijnenburg harmonised well on “Sorry Grateful.”

Jason Glenwright’s lighting plot saw the actors sometimes in full light and sometimes in shade. It was very disconcerting, especially noticeable with the second act opener which failed, because of the lighting, to build to the show-stopper it is.

Luke Volker’s 14-piece orchestra, hidden behind a glitter curtain, played with vigour and filled the Roundhouse with glorious sound.

Company is not an easy show to direct with its long dialogue scenes and musical sequences which at times have no relation to what is going on on stage. Catarina Hebbard, using every level of the theatre, intelligently made the piece work for the venue. It was masterful direction.

Peter Pinne

Images: Bradley McCaw (playing Bobby), with Susan Stenlake (L) and Tammy Sarah Linde (R) in the background; (L-R) Heidi Enchelmaier, Erika Naddei and Aurelie Roque. & All the couples and Bobby (L-R) Jordana Peek, David Kninjenburg, Tammy Sarah Linde, Josh Whitten, Lauren Ware, Brad McCaw, Stephen Hirst, Lisa Marie Gargione, Cameron Rollo, Susan Stenlake and Chris Kellett. C F Photography & Design.

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