Sometimes, a show that looks great on paper just doesn’t play out that way in execution. That’s true of MNM Productions’ “Company,” which fulfills some but not all its considerable potential.
Now running in the Rinker Playhouse at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, the Stephen Sondheim-George Furth concept musical features some of the region’s top musical theater talent. Director Bruce Linser has staged the show with intricate, well-chosen detail. Musical director Paul Reekie plays piano in the small band that delivers a fine rendition of a score that contains such gems as “Being Alive,” “The Ladies Who Lunch” and “Not Getting Married Today.” Choreographer Kimberly Dawn Smith enriches “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” and “Side by Side by Side” with her always excellent work.
So why doesn’t MNM’s “Company” knock it out of the park?
For one thing, the best musical of 1970, which also won the 2007 best revival Tony Award, hasn’t aged as well as many much-produced musical classics have. For another, there’s the Bobby issue. “Company” swirls around a commitment-resistant bachelor named Robert, aka “Bobby Baby.” The New Yorker dates and professes to envy the five married couples with whom he’s especially close. But there are reasons Bobby is turning 35 without a wife. He’s good company, charming yet emotionally aloof. At some level, his married female friends all want him, and their wedlocked husbands want to be him.
In the Tony-winning revival, director John Doyle found the perfect Bobby in Raúl Esparza, who gave a career-crowning performance as a cool but magnetic man who breaks down then breaks through in “Being Alive.” Whether on Broadway or in regional theater, each actor who plays Bobby needs to find a way to make the restless single guy worthy of his married friends’ — and the audience’s — attention.
Robert William Johnston, MNM’s Bobby, is an appealing actor with an impressive list of credits in plays and musicals. In “Company,” his forever-smiling Bobby pushes hard to be liked, and though he brings longing to “Someone Is Waiting,” humor to “Barcelona” and a ferocity to “Being Alive,” his voice just isn’t a powerful instrument.
The friends and girlfriends who share stage time with him fare better. Laura Hodos and Wayne LeGette are very funny as Sarah and Harry, a couple claiming victory over their vices (she’s into brownies, he craves booze). LeGette’s wistful “Sorry-Grateful” comes early, but it’s one of the highlights of this “Company.”
Clay Cartland as Harry and Amy Miller Brennan as Southern belle Susan are also amusing as a couple who can’t live without each other, though (oddly) they’re prepared to dispense with their wedding rings. Miller Brennan is also in glorious voice as she sings the soaring intro to “Getting Married Today.”
That song, performed with jittery and hilarious intensity by Leah Sessa as bride-to-be Amy, is the production’s comic pinnacle. Swearing she’s not getting married to her attentive Jewish fiancé, Paul (Josh Kolb), she peels her elegant heels off her cold feet, drops to her knees in her gorgeous wedding gown and propels herself across the stage while slinging Sondheim’s rapid-fire lyrics about Amy’s misgivings. Sessa is sensationally funny and a great singer.
Lindsey Corey and Joshua McKinney are Bobby’s pot-smoking pals Jenny and David, with McKinney nailing the unnerving control-freak vibe in his interactions with Corey’s sky-high Jenny. As the attractive older couple, Larry Alexander is suave as the long-suffering Larry, and Erika Scotti is a striking cougar on steroids as Joanne. She wrings considerable sardonic discontent out of “The Ladies Who Lunch,” a song that will forever belong to the late Elaine Stritch.
The women slipping in and out of Bobby’s life are Jinon Deeb as Kathy, a might-have-been wife; Nicole Kinzel as a sweet but stereotypical dumb blond flight attendant named April; and Mallory Newbrough as the fierce urban warrior Marta, who looks as though she could eat mild-mannered Bobby alive. All three have lovely, appealing voices as they portray very different young women who don’t quite fit with the bachelor outsider.
Tim Bennett’s concrete jungle set conveys a cold New York, though it gets brightened by Jayson Tomasheski’s lighting. Some small issues with mikes and the balance between the performers and the band happened on Sunday, but sound designer Justin Thompson seems to have resolved bigger problems reported at the beginning of the run. Linda Shorrock and Leslye Menshouse have assembled an array of contemporary costumes that suggest each character’s style, nature and economic level.
Given the voices and the score in MNM’s “Company,” the show contains plenty of pleasures. But you can catch a far better production of a Sondheim musical a mile and a half away at Palm Beach Dramaworks, where “Sweeney Todd” is running through Aug. 6.
“Company” runs through Aug. 6 at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., in West Palm Beach. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Tickets cost $45. To order, call 561-832-7469 or go to Kravis.org.