Saturday, November 3, 2012

'Company' in Review

Stephen Sondheim - Company
Produced by Dream Academy Productions
The Drama Centre, Singapore
2nd Nov 2012

Peter Ong (Bobby), Tan Kheng Hua (Joanne), Karen Tan (Jenny), Brendon Fernandez (David), Petrina Kow (Amy), Matt Grey (Larry), Ivan Choong (Peter), Rebecca Spykerman (Susan), Tim Garner (Paul), Juwanda Hassim (Harry), Candice De Rozario (Sarah), Seong Hui-Xuan (April), Glory Ngim (Kathy) and Mina Kaye (Martha).

Directed by Hossan Leong
Choreographed by George Chan

A review by Hawk Liu

It was the greatest pleasure to be watching Sondheim's Company last night. This show joined the 'company' of other hit shows, including Into the Woods, La Cage, Spring Awakening and Victor Victoria, all of which were produced in recent years in Singapore by Singaporean 'companies' - I couldn't resist the word play.

When I walked into the auditorium and saw the set, I thought - what a beautiful set! It was a very classy living room with a high ceiling and elegant, modern lights. There was a long straight stairway running down across the upstage. The expensive-looking living room had 3 levels where the difference in heights served as shelf space for props and things. One side of the living room extended upwards into an upper level which became a spacious open-air balcony. The downstage end of that balcony led to a fireman's pole where one could slid down into the living room space! A grand piano sat at the right upstage level against very tall glass windows, beyond which was the backdrop of other tall buildings, and that was also where the band musicians sat. Later in the musical, we saw the shelves on the upstage left open into a pull-down bed for a delicious love scene! The lowest living room level was much extended into the audience space that it felt as if we were right in the living room itself. I was really impressed with the set! What a great start to a wonderful experience.

Company examines aspects of marriage through Bobby's own relationships, or lack of, as well as through his conversations with his married friends. With many hit songs, the music is attractive and enjoyable. Sporadic melodies from some songs kept playing in my head after the show - the 'doo doo' bits in You can drive a person crazy is running in my head now! That song was a hightlight for me - three lively and shapely girls did a fine job and never missed a beat. Yes, with a difficult score like Company, the audience came to see it being pulled off and the company certainly did (more puns...?). I sat there wondering if they were going to make it for every beat of the score and they did. Walking the tight rope of Sondheim's intricate score, the lines were there, the weird harmonies securedly given, and 'Getting Married' competently rendered by the fast talking Amy (Petrina Kow). Certainly one of the most enjoyable moments for me was watching Amy's scene and I find myself caught up completely with Amy's life.

Other characters did no less. We felt for Bobby most when he became vulnerable in the 'Being Alive' scene, and when he expressed his doubts and fears with sincerity in other scenes. All the other scenes were played out well and I was very interested in what they all had to say. There was much to see in the show but I shall point out a few that I personally like (but in no way slighting other bits in the performance otherwise). As I mentioned, Getting Married was a good adventure. You could drive a persion crazy - totally entertaining - the trio ladies (very sexy - can't believe I am saying this, for those who know me...) were wonderful and 'crazy'. Mina Kaye was a delight as the Filipino - more please! The 'gay' dialogue scene between Bobby and Peter - exquisite. April's 'dumb-blonde' monologue - hilarious. The part in Side by Side where every couple in the show had a partner to mirror one's dance move and when Bobby's turn came, there was none - very clever and touching. (I heard 'aww' in the audience) The love scene - I was totally involved! Oh yes - a warning - there's quite a bit of skin in the show. The two actors go down to their undies in the love scene and then April took off her bra too and....... come and see it yourselves!

The difficult score is a b**** to sing and the rhythm and harmonies were another b**** to coordinate and the cast threw it off as if it was the easiest thing! Bobby (Peter Ong) had an attractive tenor voice which was a joy to have in the lead role. I am so glad Joanne sang every note in 'Ladies who lunch' and NOT growl like some actresses would - thank you Kheng Hua. This was a good singing cast.

Just a few down-sides for me. The setting was Singapore - totally working out well, except that the Singlish was a bit too deliberate here and there. I would say speaking naturally would generally bring out enough Singlish for its purpose. Being Alive was taken a tad too slow at the beginning. The karate fight was a little long for me. And the love scene - could they not have taken off even more clothes ?!

Notwithstanding, there were so many other positives. The lighting complimented the story well instead of bringing attention to itself (just one bit I didn't like - the harsh light when the ladies on the stairway sang their last chords, looking down on the love making couples). The band was awesome and the grand piano with the pianist on stage added to the visuals. The blocking and choreography used the space very well and the dialogue very pacely. Hossan - big hug for a show well directed!

Folks - the show is on til November 11! See it soon!


More production photos available on our Facebook Group Album. Check out ticketing details on our Events Page.

Read also: our exclusive interview with leading man Peter Ong:

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