Company-Chester Operatic Society-May 2014

The musical ‘Company’ by Stephen Sondheim begins with Robert, a lovely nuanced performance by a likeable Daniel Cartwright, a bachelor boy about town. Robert has commitment issues. Relationships are fine as long as they are kept at arms length-a ‘tender distance’. He is about to be given a 35th surprise birthday party by a group of his paired friends and, as the evening unfolds, via a series of unconnected encounters, Robert reflects on his batchelor status. As plots go that is about it, but why would you need more when you have the creative genius of Stephen Sondheim to guide you. Writing with willful wit and acerbic elegance about the minefield that is relationships Sondheim summons up one memorable song after another. And the brilliant singing/acting of the COS ensemble did not disappoint in bringing each song accurately to life on the simple and paired back set.

Stand out performances. I loved the pairing of Sioned Foulkes and Julian Eyre as the neurotic Sarah and Harry. Their bickering intensity was a joy to behold. Stacey Buckleys free spirited delivery of ‘Another hundred people’ woven with excellent choreography(Claire Jones take a bow) was so well conceived. The song ‘The Ladies who lunch’ is usually delivered with a drunken tone of stinging self-regret and oft overplayed in this respect. With Karen Dury as Joanne we actually got something more subtle and understated, and as a result the song packed more of an emotional punch(Vodka stingers actually!)

The finale to the show is the moving ‘Being alive’ which Bobby sings in anticipation, perhaps one day, of finding someone who will ‘force him to care’. Daniel’s rendition was sensitive and in tune with the way he portrayed the character( I would have liked a bit more emotional clout with the song to depict Bobby,s growing despair) but this was a minor observation.I must mention the choreography again which was original and evocative. The scenes involving the full cast seemed effortlessly realised with excellent stage spacing and setting (all those hours in rehearsals must have paid off)

The Orchestra performed this difficult score brilliantly under the direction of Richard Aaron Davies and, with the rest of the company, brought Mr Sondheim’s COMPANY to a suitably musical close.  As a piece of ensemble singing/acting you will have to travel far and wide to find something as good as this.

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