Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by George Furth. Everyman Theatre. Directed by Jordan Best. The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. 16-24 October 2015

What a gem this production is! With Jordan Best’s reliably slick comic direction and a cohort of some of the ACT region’s best triple threat performers, Everyman Theatre’s production of Company promised to be good and it doesn’t disappoint.

We meet perpetual bachelor Bobby on the eve of his 35thbirthday, as he feels the weight of the social expectation that he should marry sooner rather than later. Jarrad West’s Bobby walks a fine line – on one level thinks he should be married but his heart is transparently ambivalent. Not least reason being that his married friends provide such bizarre and dysfunctional models of wedded bliss. They each seem to be unhappily bound in loose configurations of convenience and mutual antagonism, as is demonstrated in a series of loosely connected comic tableaux.

Best has chosen a lively, snappy pace which doesn’t flag for a second. Picking stand-outs in this crowd is hard, but for mine Helen McFarlane and Max Gambale as a middle-aged couple sampling pot for the first time were seam-burstingly funny. Vanessa de Jager as free spirit Marta is likewise impressive.

Sondheim’s arrangements are ridiculously complex with jazzy discordances and unusual chord progressions, and apart from some possible pitch wobbles in the opening number, the vocalists are on top of it throughout. Laura Dawson was noteable with her excellent rendition of Getting Married Today, which calls for machine gun pace delivery of staccato syllables. Another highlight was Karen Vickery, who is all (upper) class as Joanne, with a rich strong warm-toned voice and world-weary cynicism.

The choreography (by James Batchelor) seamlessly accommodated the widely varied dance skill sets in the cast to create exciting routines. Stand out was Michelle Norris who performed a lithe, sinuous graceful contemporary dance number to the instrumental Tick Tock.

I was interested to see how the material had dated. Company is unmistakably a portrait of heterosexual marriage through a cynical, possibly repressed 1970s gay eye.  It’s also full of decidedly mid-century social pressures and George Furth’s brutal Jewish New York wit. The period piece aspect of the show doesn’t make it less watchable, but works as a snapshot of the times when there was far more pressure on people to marry. The deadly sharp humour hasn’t aged at all .

This is a great opportunity to see this extraordinary musical done justice. Go see it and enjoy!

Cathy Bannister

Photographer: Kelly McGannon.

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