Listen up, America. I am a straight man. And while I am an actor, I learned as a youngster the differences between musical theatre "actors" and actual actors. Actual actors in plays are interested in telling stories and will suffer for their art through many forms of hangovers but will still give you the true feelings with cracked voices and little to no makeup or interest in their appearance. Musical theatre "actors" are interested in wearing lots of foundation and furthering their "career" by singing as loud as they can and limping through the actual storytelling with their dead eyes and Fisherman's Friend breath. Just looking around to see who is in the audience that they can sing at and where to put their little microphones so we can see them but not too conspicuous, like if they were in "Rent".
Is this a generalization? No.
Is this jealousy? Probably.
Truth is, I don't know shit about musicals. I have done a few (including a rock opera based on Franz Kafka's The Trial) but have never been terribly interested in being a part of that scene.
In my experience, musicals are about situations that are bigger than you. They tell epic tales of Lion Kings and Spidermen. They introduce us to dragons and PuertoRicans. They take us to lonely Pirate islands on big boats and into famous pieces of artwork.
The play I saw on Sunday is called "Company" by Steven Sondheim and here is what it is about: This dude named Bobby has a lot of friends that are miserable and are married and he is single and handsome and has sex with hot weirdo (Dana Tretta, hot as usual. Elizabeth Lanza, hot. Samantha Dubina, hot.) girls all the time. He wears a suit everywhere and stays out drinking all night, then goes to his well paying job and then is every one's friend and everybody loves him and then he gets some more pussy and bourbon. But this doesn't make Bobby happy. Bobby wants to be in marriage. Not love, he doesn't care about love, he just wants the insurance of having a warm body around all the time. Well, poor Bobby. It's SOOOOOOOOHARRRRRRRD to be YOOOOOOOOOOU.
That last line was sarcastic. Sometimes sarcasm is a great way to get your point across, but it can be hard when you write. For instance, how are people to know that when, for example, I say "fabulous" I am really saying "terrible"?
The show is at the fabulous Stage 773. Super comfortable chairs and great sound quality are just a couple of the amenities you will encounter on your visit.
I guess Stephen Sondheim is famous for writing musicals about regular stuff with regular people. Company is one of his more famous ones. There aren't any songs you leave humming or any real melodies, but I think that's part of the charm of his work. I have always wondered that about musicals. Why is it, when someone is so overcome with emotion that they have to sing an actual song? Why can't they just be overcome with emotion and then sing some wandering notes in no particular order? If you have wondered this also, then Company is the show for you to see.
Now this particular production is a different case than the points I have made earlier. Griffin Theatre Company is famous for picking out pieces that best reflect the ideas of the company, and I think Company is probably right in their wheelhouse. I think for the most part, they were more interested in casting actors than musical theatre monkeys. The talent on display is unspeakable.
Jonathan Berry directed this.
Is Jonathan Berry an unmarried man in his 30's? Is this play a cry for help? We will never know.
In the course of this musical, Bobby goes to see all of his friends who are married and are in different stages of their relationship. There is the couple that is about to get married (Danny Taylor at his best ever and Darci Nalepa at her best ever too, I guess, I've never seen her before). This couple is about to get married and the girl is freaking out because she will have to be with the same man for the rest of her life. The guy doesn't seem to mind though.
There is the couple going through mid-life (Trey Maclin and Mari Stratton, slumming it at the Griffin. They will both be very famous.). This couple is trying everything to keep their passions going. Not just passions for each other, but passions for life. Trying Not to Die Inside is a popular hobby for most people in their mid 30s/40s, and they are trying everything from not drinking to karate to dieting and nothing seems to be working. So we have that to look forward to.
There is the couple that got divorced but is staying together for the kids. He might be gay and she is southern. They are played by the wonderful Laura McClain and the unstoppable force known as Robert McLean.
Robert McLean never ceases to amaze me. He is never bad. His Aragorn in Lord of the Rings was a little fey, but that's to be expected and also that was years ago. In Company he plays a fella who loves the fellas, and is very convincing. His speaking voice is wonderful and he sings as if an angel was inside of him and maybe this angel has a good singing voice also. He is our generation's answer to the Rubik's Cube.
There is the couple that sort of hates each other and are on their 8th or 9th marriages. Played with strength and believability by the one and only Allison Cane beautiful in her drunken, belligerent anger. Larry Baldacci has outdone himself again as the sad sack husband that just loves her money. These guys are the most lost of all and seem to be holding on to each other and their work as buoys so they don't get swept off into the vacuous hole of their own lives.
There is the couple who is poor but has all the love. Nikki Klix, my favorite actress in town and Paul Fagen, my other favorite actress in town do a great job. They play a couple that is in love and on the up and up. They have decided to have Bobby over to smoke a little weed and talk talk talk. This was my favorite scene and Klix and Fagen nail it down. I have never used drugs, but they look like fun from this play.
Finding love can be tricky. You need to have faith in addition to love. Faith that the other person will love you back, faith that you are worthy of their love, and faith that this is the right person. It seems harder than just being alone sometimes. I think that's what all 4 of these couples were struggling with. There is always love, but faith is harder to come by.
Benjamin Sprunger sounds like the past tense version of Benjamin Springer, but he isn't. He is a real person and he plays Bobby. He is pretty great. That role seems hard to do. He is also very handsome and opens his mouth really wide when he sings so you can almost see into his throat. I like that in a singer.
The band is great too. They are lead by a woman named Allison Kane, and play all the "songs". The costumes are good too! Allison Siple knows that already, because she is the hottest costumer in town and doesn't need me talking about her.
Now I know what you are thinking. "This play sounds expensive."
You are right. It costs $32 for one ticket. That's to keep out all the riff-raff and have fancy people in to see it. If you can sneak in though, you should see this play and maybe you will have a change of heart about musicals too!