Insight Theatre Company has taken on one of the big dogs to kick off its seventh season. Steven Sondheim’s Company, complete with a four-piece orchestra, arrives on a set more complicated than it looks and with a cast of fourteen to sing Sondheim’s work. Sondheim, too, is more complicated that he appears on first being heard by an amateur, as lots of us have discovered over the years.
The story is basically a series of vignettes about a New York bachelor turning 35. Set in the Seventies, except for a cell phone very early in the first act, it reminds us that 35 was a good bit older for a single man then than it is now, especially since every one of his friends are married. Robert (Martin Fox) keeps getting the why-aren’t-you-married question and he doesn’t have a good answer. The examination of why not is the fulcrum of the show. Fox’s Robert is a nice, rather ordinary, guy but Fox is in good voice for the show and stands up to the challenge mostly very well, despite some miking problems one night.
The main drawback to the evening is that at times the singers, both singly and occasionally as a group, are not understandable. It’s not a volume problem, but the lyrics are so demanding when delivered at the proper tempo that they aren’t articulated clearly enough. The slower songs fare far better, for the most part, and the group harmony is often very satisfying indeed. Special kudos have to go to Laurie McConnell, who plays Joanne, the role Elaine Stritch originated and which gave Stritch her signature song. “The Ladies Who Lunch” surely must have been approached with apprehension, both by McConnell and people who love the song. She does it great justice, leaning into it and making it her own, a fine piece of work for her. Michael Brightman, who is Larry, Joanne’s long-suffering husband, is a pleasure to watch as he listens to the intoxicated Joanne let it all hang out.
The set is by Peter Spack, and the lighting, essential to the show’s fast changes, from David Blake works well with the quick moves. Doug Finlayson directed. All in all, mostly good work.
Insight Theatre Company
through July 3
Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall\
530 E. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves