BY SANDY STAGGS
Three’s company and a welcome crowd in Limestone College Theatre’s sparkling new production of Stephen Sondheim’s very New York musical comedy “Company” playing through March 4 in Gaffney.
Dr. Tim Baxter-Ferguson, head of the college’s Theatre Department, directs this super-polished show musical about five upper middle class couples and their single friend Robert, played by sophomore Zakk Potter.
It’s Robert’s 35th birthday and all of his friends (who are either married or in a committed relationship) are intent on getting their pal hitched so he doesn’t spend the second half of his life alone. But marriage isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be as Robert soon discovers.
While there is no discernible plot other than the repeating birthday theme, Robert, in a series of unrelated vignettes and awesome musical numbers, is content being the third wheel with each of his best friend duos and dating three – yes 1-2-3 – beautiful women.
There’s the neurotic Sarah (Vanessa Miles) and Harry (Luke Holt) who are (unsuccessfully) battling additions to food and alcohol, respectively, leading to a hilarious knock-down drag-out karate chop scuffle.
There’s the happily-married Peter (NeTorrian Patton) and Susan (Bre Suratt) who nonchalantly announce their impending split. And they are strangely upbeat about it.
In one scene, Robert shares a joint with the “square” Jenny (Autumn Krueger) and husband David (Jamaas Britton).
Later he goes out for drinks with the twice-divorced Joanne (Christina Loscalzo) and her third (and very wealthy) husband Larry, played by guest artist Ben Dawkins).
And he witnesses Amy (Kinsey Gregg) have a musical meltdown as she hesitates to walk down the aisle with Paul (J. R. Bloomer).
The book by George Furth was based on his collection of 11 one-acts and evokes Woody Allen, not only because of the story’s Big Apple setting, but also the universal ordinariness and mundaneness of relationship dynamics.
But the pleasure from “Company” derives from Sondheim’s ability to translate these ideas to song such as the titular number that, like most of his works such as “Into the Woods,” cleverly reprises and weaves in and out of the proceedings as a transitional leitmotif.
We never see Robert doing anything particularly likeable or charming. In fact, Potter is sometimes purposely pensive and aloof as his pals express their ambiguity (and the perils) of having a lifetime mate, which the fellows do most solidly in their rendition of “Sorry-Grateful” and propose a little matchmaking with “Have I Got a Girl for You.”
His trio of girlfriends – Kathy (Jeanna Burch), Marta (Grace Wylie) and April (Jade Alford) urge him to make some sort of commitment in the Andrews Sisters-style number “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.”
And the showstopper occurs at the top of the second act in a full-out dance number (choreography by Jacqua Carr) in the up-tempo paean to Robert’s role as the perfect friend “What Would We Do Without You?”
There are several standout solos in this “Company” including Miss Gregg, who looking so lovely in her wedding dress and strands of wavy red hair in a sea of brown and brunette heads, absolutely nails the bride’s jitters about a life-altering moment and inter-faith union in the lightning-fast lyrics of the patter song “Getting Married Today.”
As the sexually-abrasive and sarcastic Joanne, Miss Loscalzo is fine form and sustains vocal power in “The Ladies Who Lunch.”
And of course, Potter proves to have a formidable voice with stamina, spot-on pitch and a helluva vibrato in “Someone is Waiting,” “Side by Side,” and “Being Alive.”
But one of the play’s most tender scenes comes in the conversational, operatic structure of “Barcelona,” which features Potter and Miss Alford (as the intellectually-flighty flight attendant April) in a witty, display of genuine intimacy.
The cast and superb vocals (music direction by Dr. David Thompson) are matched only by the production’s creative team that demonstrate a unique simpatico. The scenic design by Dr. Baxter-Ferguson astutely maintains a unifying palette of grey, black and white, and a repeating grid pattern that mirrors the cosmopolitan lines and skyscrapers of New York. He even manages to disguise the musicians (Thompson along with Jim Simmons on keyboard and drummer David Lawson) within the set that is dominated by Vandy Scoates’ phenomenal and pristine backdrop of an upside-down silhouette of the Manhattan skyline.
The color palette extends to Ms. Gregg’s wonderful and sophisticated costumes of comparable patterns and fabrics.
The sound quality (and city ambiance sound cues by James Holmes) is excellent, though one couple has their vocals drowned out by the musicians, and the colorful lighting design is by Caleb Patterson.
“Company” continues Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Limestone Center Theatre, 130 Leadmine St. in Gaffney. For tickets, visit www.showtix4u.com.