Dig Baton Rouge

In Good ‘Company’

By Tara Bennett

It’s Bobby’s 35th birthday celebration and all of his best friends will be there, including all his married friends. Everyone seems to have someone, but where is the one person to make Bobby’s life whole? Theatre Baton Rouge’s (TBR) production of “Company” invites you to find out if love is in the cards for Bobby through March 22.

It’s hard to dispute the success of Stephen Sondheim. He’s written the scores of some of Broadway’s most iconic shows, among them “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Into the Woods,” and “Sweeney Todd,” and he’s won more Tony Awards than any other composer.

“His music is unbelievably elegant,” said Artistic Director Jenny Ballard, who is directing the show for TBR. “It’s very complicated, it’s very complex, there are constant key changes, and multiple parts being sung by 13 different people at any given time. I think that if you are a fan of musical theatre, and if you’re a musical theatre actor or director, Sondheim is the best of the best. It’s such an unbelievable challenge to tackle that kind of musicality. It’s really, really beautiful.”

The musical “Company” wasn’t Sondheim’s first success, but it was a show that set him apart. First produced in 1970, “Company” follows a nontraditional arc in examining the marriages of the friends of a 35-year-old single man. The classic musical has gotten new life lately, with a 2011 revival, and a film version starring Neil Patrick Harris. There was also an announcement that Sondheim is re-imagining the piece with a gay main character. Nearly 50 years after its premiere, Sondheim’s landmark look at love and marriage in the modern age remains a stirring experience.

“It’s very hot right now,” said Ballard. “People are going to love this show. I think it’s very accessible to younger audiences and older audiences. There’s a story that everyone will be able to identify with.”

The plot consists of a series of continuous vignettes, revolving around the life and loves (or lack thereof) of Robert, the 35-year-old bachelor, and the well-meaning meddling of his good (albeit crazy) married friends. These are the last people he should be studying, however, as Robert contemplates relationships and his seeming inability to connect.

“Marriage works in different ways for different people,” said Ballard. “Sometimes good, and sometimes bad.”

Given the current political climate surrounding marriage and equality under the law, this musical examination is as relevant in 2015 as it was in 1970. While planning the TBR production, Ballard realized the musical’s contemporary theme would resonate with today’s crowds, but the traditional ‘70s setting was not necessary.

“I think that’s a tribute to Sondheim himself that he’s able to write music that is so timeless that it can be set in whatever time period it needs to be,” said Ballard. “I feel like all of these things are so relevant right now that I don’t see any point in taking the story out of now. I feel like the story can be told now and be very important now.”

Along with Ballard’s stage direction, there will be music direction by Terry Bowman and choreography by Mary Bayle. The cast includes Jason Dowies as Bobby, along with Kaitlyn Stockwell, Richard Williams, Dana Todd Lux, Chip Davis, Elizabeth Canfield, Ronald Coats, Jennifer Gomez, Michael Ruffin, Jennifer Johnson, Terry Byars, Carol Moore, Jamie Leonard, and Brandy Hawkins. This cast in particular has Ballard feeling like “Company” is a TBR reunion show.

“This is actually the first show in a while where everyone on the stage has been worked with Theatre Baton Rouge before,” said Ballard. “I feel like we have a lot of heavy hitters on this show.”

“Company” runs through March 22 at TBR. For tickets and show times, call 225-924-6496.

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