Arts and Entertainment

Reveling in Sondheim's ‘Company’ at WWCA

Bobby (Justin Carrell) thinks of his friends as he hears a message machine full of “happy birthdays,” setting the stage for his 35th birthday conundrum.    - Bill Mickelson/Staff Photo
Bobby (Justin Carrell) thinks of his friends as he hears a message machine full of “happy birthdays,” setting the stage for his 35th birthday conundrum.
— image credit: Bill Mickelson/Staff Photo

Bobby is 35, single and ravishingly handsome.

According to his married friends, he’s got it all. He’s the drinking buddy, the shoulder to cry on, the one with whom they can share their secrets and dreams. The classic cat who all the guys want to be like and all the girls want to be with.

“We’re so crazy, he’s so sane,” the married couples sing in the show’s opening overture.

But even so, they’re each, in their own way, hoping to bring the bachelor down into the pit of insanity that is marriage in the classic 1970’s Sondheim musical “Company.”

It swept the Tonys when it premiered, but it’s still one of the master’s lesser-known works — to the layman that is. It premieres at the Western Washington Center for the Arts playhouse in Port Orchard tonight.

“It’s a big show for actors,” WWCA director Jan Ewen said, noting its prowess and technical difficulty.

“It’s right up there with ‘Oklahoma,’” one of the married players in the show, Dan Englehard noted. He was taken aback, a bit, when I asked him why I’d never heard of this one. He saw for the first time a few years back at CSTOCK.

“Company” swept the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score and Best Lyrics in addition to numerous Drama Desk Awards when it premiered in 1970. It had Broadway revivals in 1995 and in 2006, the latter of which won a Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.

The show is also credited as one of the first musicals to deal with adult problems through music. It looks at middle-class people with middle-class problems, which makes it quite easily relatable here in Kitsap.

“It has the ability to open you up to the topic in a humorous way,” Englehard noted. “Then it smacks you with the truth.”

“Company” follows commitment-challenged Bobby, played by community theater heartthrob Justen Carrell, through a series of vignettes with five married couples, who are his best friends, and his three young love interests. There are elements to each of the five different couples that make Bobby want to get married, and other things that make him want to run the other way.

“Each one of them is pretty dysfunctional,” Englehard noted. “But there are these certain truths to aspects of each one of the couples that you can relate to.”

Englehard and his wife Linda — another married player in the show — are one of a few real-life married couples involved in the production, including WWCA’s artistic and musical director married pair Jan and Bruce Ewen.

But the cast is virtually split between married and single actors, which lends an interesting perspective when taking into account both sides.

While the married couples can likely relate to and take stock in their own lives through the thoughtful, musical romp, the single actors can, like the main character, take a look at why they should or why they shouldn’t get married.

Talking with two single girls, both of whom played married women in the show, I asked Katie Olson and Katie Hestead each to put themselves in Bobby’s shoes and tell me whether or not they would get married, taking into account all the various aspects of each of the married couples in the show. And, in unison they replied, they would not, with a laugh.

WWCA PRESENTS SONDHEIM’S ‘COMPANY’ with wine and cheese and a chat with the director preceding the show opening night at 6:30 p.m. tonight, 521 Bay St. in Port Orchard — the show follows at 7:30 p.m. It will run through March 1 with curtains at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $10 for youth and military Info: www.wwca.us or call (360) 779-SHOW.

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