Author: Adam Goldstein

CU Boulder production of “Company” fully realizes one of Sondheim’s most distinctive musicals

“Company” stands apart in the collected works of Stephen Sondheim as one of his most complex contributions to the musical theater canon. It won the 1971 Tony award for best musical, as well as best score, best lyrics, and best book.

The 1970 musical, featuring lyrics and score by Sondheim and a book by George Furth, challenges dramatic conventions. It reimagines narrative storytelling and re-envisions the relationship between music and plot. In many ways, “Company” was a revolutionary entry in Sondheim’s impressive body of work, which made it a perfect choice for theater students at the University of Colorado looking to deepen their understanding of the craft of theater.

“It’s very different. It’s not the integrated golden age musical that Sondheim had been raised on. A lot of his other musicals go back to that traditional model. With “Company” he challenged himself,“ says Bud Coleman, Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs and Initiatives for the College of Arts and Sciences. Coleman is directing the University of Colorado’s production of “Company,” which will run in the Charlotte York Irey Theatre beginning March 10. “It’s our attempt to acknowledge one of the greats of musical theater, certainly in America. This show will help our students attain their personal best as actors and as performers.“

In the intimate environment of the Irey Theatre, this staging of the musical will offer theatergoers a unique view of the action, and of the layered storytelling that comes through in Sondheim’s music and Furth’s text.

“We’re taking advantage of the architecture of the Irey Dance Theater. It has a very deep stage so we’ve reconfigured the space to what some people would call ‘tennis court seating,’” Coleman says. “The audience will be looking at actors and at another section of the audience as well. It will make for a more intimate viewing experience.“

That dynamic is perfect for telling the story of Bobby, a 35-year-old bachelor who is challenged by his married friends about his seeming refusal to settle down and get married. Throughout the show Bobby and his friends plumb his motivations for staying unhitched. Over the course of the performance the characters explore the significance of love, marriage, relationships and of Bobby’s presence in their lives.

All of this takes place against the backdrop of a very complex, challenging score and demanding choreography. Musical Director Adam Ewing will bring the score to life. In order to meet the exceptional challenges of Sondheim’s music, Kees Nachbar and Samuel Meyer have been double-cast in the lead role of Bobby.

All of these elements will help bring to life one of the most distinctive pieces in the life’s work of an American master known for his subtlety, skill and musical brilliance.

“I’m so honored to be able to return to this brilliant musical,” says Coleman, “to explore with this cast the complexities of relationships.  As one of the characters tells Bobby, ‘Hey buddy don’t be afraid it won’t be perfect, the only thing to be afraid of really is that it won’t BE.’”

“Company” opens on Friday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Charlotte York Irey Theatre.