I went to see Company by Stephen Sondheim last night, the latest production by Kookaburra, the national musical theatre company, and was totally blown away. There were times when my jaw literally dropped in wonderment about how good it was.
Originally entitled Threes, its plot revolves around Bobby (a single man unable to commit fully to a steady relationship, let alone marriage), the five married couples who are his best friends, and his three girlfriends. Unlike most book musicals, which follow a clearly delineated plot, Company is a concept musical comprised of short vignettes, presented in no particular chronological order, linked by a celebration for Bobby’s 35th birthday.
I had been invited to opening night, but couldn’t go due to a work commitment, and so when my friend Colin suggested we go, I said yes instantly. Although I wasn’t particularly aware of the musical and its concerns, I was aware certainly of some of the great songs including “Another Hundred People” and “Ladies Who Lunch”.
I’d first heard “Another Hundred People” on the debut CD by Jodie Gillies, and I loved both the music, and the lyrics concerned with the anonymity of modern city life.
I can’t recall when I first heard “Ladies Who Lunch”, though, a drunken tirade (or maybe tribute) by a woman of a “certain age” about her peers who seem to do little with their lives. The sheer raw emotion of the performance last night was tremendous, one of the highlights of the show.
Another individual highlight was “(Not) Getting Married today”, which demonstrated great vocal ability, great humour, and great theatricality.
And David Campbell was spectacular too. He’s really come into his own, performing with strength, emotion and maturity. It was close to a flawless performance from him, the best I’ve ever seen him.
But although there were some great individual moments in this production, the key to its success was the strength of the ensemble, which makes sense, I guess, since the production is called “Company”.
The direction’s great, the singing’s great, the choreography’s great, the set design is simple (yet effective). This was honestly one of the best moments of theatre I’ve ever seen.
The only odd thing about last night was their decision to drop two numbers, including Barcelona which is a terrific song. Why, I don’t know. Maybe they should have told us? Or maybe they will tell us.
But in the meantime, here’s to The Ladies Who Lunch.