Four stars out of five
Pure and simply Jonathan Munby’s Company is Sondheim as it should be. An undercurrent of unease and uncertainty permeates a glossy veneer of charm and comedy. From the first echoey moments the recordings rang out across the theatre it was clear this was going to be something special. An ambiguous second in time was captured, the psychology of one man at a defining changing moment in his life, on the edge of a realisation discovered and delivered through a mix of joy, humour, constant laugh out loud one liners delivered with impeccable comic timing, and of course not to forget show stopping dance numbers; numbers that filled the stage with sparkle and energy vibrantly and beautifully sung by a strong cast with no weak links who meshed seamlessly but really owned their own performances.
A highlight of the show was Francessca Annis’ rendition of ladies who lunch a pure, raw and emotional performance that displayed sensitivity and emphasised the pain of a changing world; a theme that was further reflected in the 1970’s setting. It had been the productions goal to capture the original feel of 70s New York, a time of change, uncertainty and sometimes pain, it provided an evident backdrop for the piece and there was never any doubt of the location or era. The costumes screamed 1970 and the ever-present view of the New York skyline complete with the sounds of cars and sirens created an inescapable omnipresent cityscape. This however was no simple blast from the past the cast were engaging, identifiable and at times a little too relatable. Daniel Evans’ Robert was laid back, slightly arrogant but all too charming, a character it was practically impossible to dislike even when he was leading on young women. He trod the perfect fine line between confidence and uncertainty, annoyance and likeability, charm and frustration, the allusive player and simultaneously the solid dependable friend. The strong relationship between Robert and the rest of the cast was evident but a sense of isolation still pervaded the whole production aided brilliantly by the staging and choreography, Robert was never quite matched up. The chemistry between the couples themselves was electric, they appeared to have a real connection and it was easy to believe they were companions who shared their lives together.
In short this is a constant laugh out loud production, a comic charming look at love which ranges from the extenuated to slightly uncomfortably realistic, beautifully acted and presented. It is a must see for anyone with an interest in love (or lack of it), a passion for comedy, or a simple liking for well sung, well danced musical theatre.
Company ran at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre from 29th November until 7th January.