Tag Archives: Company

Immaculate Conception of The Big Picture

The cast of HOPE & GRAVITY Skype with playwright Michael Hollinger prior to rehearsal.

I am currently in rehearsals for Hope and Gravity, a new play by Michael Hollinger which will have its second professional staging at Circle Theatre.  The production reteams me with director Dr. Harry Parker who directed me in Company two years ago.  After meeting Hollinger via Skype during our first read-through, the cast and I have dug into rehearsals which have been full of discovery and laughs.  I’m anxious to see where we go next and excited to get the play on its feet and in front of an audience.

Just as an elevator starts and stops on random floors, nine different stories are connected by a simple twist of fate.  This nonlinear play travels backward and forward in time as each character experiences the highs and lows of relationships and chance encounters.  Their universal quest for life, love and happiness results in both comedy and tragedy.  As the play draws to its inevitable closing, two strangers must decide whether or not to risk taking a momentous leap of faith.

Circle Theatre’s mission is the advocacy of contemporary plays rarely seen in Dallas/Fort Worth.  Hope and Gravity will run June 19th through July 19th.  Visit Circle Theatre’s website for showtimes and tickets!

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COMPANY Review – Examiner.com

Jubilee Theatre stages poignant, vibrant, exquisite Company

by Christopher Soden

Jubilee Theatre’s production of Company (directed by Harry Parker) has a large, vibrant, supple cast, quite adept at the coy, impetuous shifts in the material. They handle Jennifer Engler’s urbane choreography with grace and panache, as well as the mercurial dialogue and song. It’s rare to experience such depth, resonance, spontaneity, vibrance and unabashed pleasure in a musical comedy. To hear passages from a performance long after I’ve left the theater. Treat yourself to an evening of exquisite entertainment, catch Jubilee’s Company before they close August 12th.

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COMPANY Review – Theater Jones

Little Things, Done Together

Jubilee Theatre scores a win with its production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company. We’ll drink to that.

by

It seems like every week there’s a new article proclaiming that today’s younger generation is waiting longer to start their life, given the general lack of jobs and money. But that delay only lasts so long, and as we enter the fourth decade of our lives, eventually most people get going with it, get married, have kids, settle down. Which leaves a precious few that hold out for whatever reason.

Bobby (Lloyd Harvey) is one of the precious few who, on his 35th birthday, is still single in a world of married people. This is the set up for Stephen Sondheim’s and George Furth’s Company, getting a new treatment at Jubilee Theatre.

Bobby, or Robert, or Bob, or Robby and other nicknames he’s called, is the “single friend” to a colorful cast of married friends, all of who have a strong opinion on the state, or lack thereof, of his settling down with someone. For his part, Bobby waffles back and forth on the issue before finally reaching a cathartic conclusion.

The show is non-linear, taking place in a series of vignettes, not necessarily connected chronologically, and bracketed by the surprise birthday party thrown for Bobby by his friends, comprised of five married, or otherwise attached, couples. It’s one of Sondheim’s greatest musical accomplishments featuring well-known songs like “The Ladies Who Lunch,” the title song, and the climactic “Being Alive.” It’s worth a viewing regardless of where it is.

Jubilee’s group, led by director Harry Parker, performs admirably, with the bulk of the memorable performances coming from the supporting cast.

Harvey is fine as Bobby. His characterization is right on and his relative unease with the women in his life elicits that sadly familiar awkward feeling everyone can relate to. Where he struggles at times is with the singing. It’s not exactly the easiest part to belt, most notably accomplished by Raul Esparza in the 2006 revival in which even he resorts to yelling a few of his higher parts. And for the most part, Harvey is on top of it, but the occasional glitch in his singing stings the ears and breaks down the illusion a little. A nitpick, maybe, but noticeable enough to note.

The supporting cast is tremendous, led by Michele Rene who plays the acerbic matronly role of Joanne, originated by the indomitable Elaine Stritch on Broadway. Rene nails the cynical, thrice-married socialite attitude, her confidence oozing off the stage. And yet, when the time comes for her character-defining moment, and a major turn, she lands it with great emotional precision.

Tracy Nachelle Davis and Ben Phillips as married couple Sarah and Harry, and the real introduction to the character vignettes, use their fun, if not slightly aggravating, back-and-forth to set the stage for the parallel to Robert’s problems. Namely, none of the couples ever appear to be outwardly happy. Harry and Sarah show this through a haphazardly hilarious karate match. Comedy and chemistry aside though, both are talented singers and when the time comes to give their piece, both impress.

Alison Hodgson plays April, one of Bobby’s girlfriends. She gets the most stage time of the three and doesn’t waste the opportunity. What could easily be a more minor role she imbues with heart and agency. Hodgson makes the audience care more about April than Bobby does.

While this article could wax poetic about the strong cast, it’s probably best to point out a couple of specific numbers that stood out. “Sorry-Grateful” is a heart-wrenching song sung by the men that highlights the two-headed monster that is love. Harvey and Phillips are joined by William Massey (David), Marcus M. Mauldin (Larry), Brad Stephens (Paul) and Scott Sutton (Peter) in the sweetly comic number, and it’s pleasing.

Also, “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” sung by the girlfriends, Hodgson, Whitney LaTrice Coulter (Marta) and Katreeva Phillips (Kathy). It’s one of the more lively and fun numbers, with an undercurrent of frustration that combines to create a funny piece of theater.

Parker and the team at Jubilee have succeeded in what is no small undertaking. They’ve taken a challenging, non-linear show, filled it with a non-traditional cast – it’s usually presented as a bunch of upper middle class white New Yorkers – and come out the other end with something that feels personal and driven by passion.

And finding that passion is really what it’s all about. For all of Robert’s struggles and ups and downs and twists and turns, what he’s essentially looking for is something to get passionate about, something that makes him want to embrace an ideal, one way or the other.

And that’s exactly what Jubilee does. The cast and crews passion for this show permeates every note and every word until Bobby isn’t the only one finding inspiration in Company.

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COMPANY Review – D Magazine

Company At Jubilee Theatre

Infinite Things Authentically Cast

by Liz Johnstone

Stephen Sondheim’s concept musical Company is 40 years old. It is still perfectly delightful, perfectly surprising, and still perfectly Sondheim, with its lyrical tricks and songs that require performers to go without oxygen for an almost inhuman amount of time. There’s a reason someone thinks to revive it once every so often, and it’s not simply because brilliant writing can put a Band-Aid over all manner of a given production’s sins. It’s because, of course, that Sondheim wrote this comedy about infinite things—love and relationships, the challenges of one or both, the state of our human lives. To see his work performed is both effortless and profoundly challenging. He changed American musical theater forever, to the point where he has become synonymous with the idea that beneath all the happiness and light, the cheery music and dance steps, lurks a deeper truth and a potentially devastating dark.

The story is told through a series of vignettes connected by perpetual bachelor Bobby’s surprise birthday party. He’s turning 35, and he has three different girlfriends and zero interest in settling down much to the chagrin of his many coupled off friends. There’s Harry and Sarah, an alcoholic and a chronic dieter, respectively. Then there’s Susan, a Southern lady prone to fainting spells, who’s married to Peter, who might be gay. Then there’s uptight Jenny and controlling David, neurotic Catholic Amy and Jewish Paul, acerbic Joanne and affable Larry (he’s her third husband). Each couple faces different issues, but as Bobby learns, it’s better that they face those problems together.

Considering Sondheim’s broad strokes (as far as theme is concerned, anyway), it is then interesting to consider the fact that traditionally, the entire casts of various Company productions—from Bobby, the lead, right down to the smallest supporting roles—have almost always been lily-white. Raúl Esparza, who is Cuban and played Bobby in the 2006 Broadway revival, is of course a notable exception. But in the beginning, this made sense enough. Written and first performed in the seventies, the series of connected vignettes centers around upper middle class friends living in New York City. They have dinner parties. They have apartments with terraces. And what’s more, Broadway has a history, as many things that require money do, as being an activity for rich white people.

But now, a lack of non-white faces just might be the one thing that might date an otherwise timeless piece of theater, especially since there’s no reason why all the characters have to look like they descended from the Vikings. This particularly diverse production, which is directed by Harry Parker and opened at the Jubilee Theatre in Fort Worth over the weekend, makes for a refreshing change of pace. According to artistic director Tre Garrett, Sondheim is a bit of a departure (and a risk) for the theater. After all, Jubilee’s mission is to produce theater that reflects the African-American experience. But rather than an exercise in forced racial equality, this version of Company feels authentically cast to produce an important, authentic human experience. Most of the company, if you will, did well enough, with a couple stand outs in the ensemble.

The major problem, though, is that Lloyd Harvey can’t hack the leading role. Robert, or Bobby or Bubi or Robby darling, as the other characters call him, is crucial. The vocal trouble was apparent from his first solo in the title number, the goosebump-inducing, choral-esque “Company,” when longer notes went painfully flat (I actually wrote “ouch” on my notepad) and he wasn’t quite glib enough to keep up with Sondheim’s lyrical circles (that’s the no-breathing thing I was talking about earlier), let alone dominate them. Things did not improve as we cut back and forth between Robert interacting with the various couples and then later, his lady friends. Harvey mumbled through libretto, he was off key on more than one occasion, and couldn’t quite infuse his snarky, smirky, surface Bobby (employing Jim Halpert-esque facial reactions) with enough of a believable emotional arc to keep the guy solidly in the “lovable cad” zone. Lovable being the operative word. As a result, “Being Alive,” the usually powerful finale, is unfortunately undercut and under-sung. But in between somewhat shaky bookends, there are a lot of nice moments. The songs that didn’t involve Robert on a major level, such “The Little Things We Do Together,” the duet between Harry (Ben Phillips, a wonderful voice) and Sarah (Sarah Nachelle Davis), were by far the most successful.

And then there are flashes of brilliance. Meg Shideler as Amy, who gets cold feet on her wedding day, steals the show with her perfectly paced (not crazy-Chipmunk fast, but just the right clip) rendition of “Getting Married Today.” Shideler is magnetic, hilarious and charming, with the necessary vocal chops to pull it off and flawless enunciation. Her meltdown was the most viscerally delightful thing I’ve seen on a stage in, well, some time. Sondheim is tough; there is honor, laughter, and happiness here in the attempt. As the characters of Company so often point out, it’s not how a thing ends or begins, it’s just that it happens.

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COMPANY Review – The Column Online

Reviewed by Chad Bearden
Associate Theater Critic
John Garcia’s THE COLUMN

Stephen Sondheim has contributed a glut of challenging and memorable material to American musical theater. His collaborations and topic choices are varied, yielding a rich catalog of music ranging from the vengeful and cannibalistic Sweeny Todd to the exploration of a pointillist painting in Sunday in the Park with George. The technical complexity of the actual music is enough to keep even seasoned performers on their toes. Sondheim’s collaboration with playwright George Furth resulted in one of his most challenging works, both technically and conceptually. The 1970 musical Company was something new in the world of musical theater.

Nowhere to be found were the meet cute romances, fanciful settings, flashy costumes, or jovial bombast common to the standard Broadway musical. Audiences were offered a show that wasn’t the usual escapist fare they were expecting when they decided to spend a night at the theater. Instead, they were essentially shown a mirror of their own lives. Company is everyday life: the story of middle aged New Yorkers dealing with the convoluted comforts and anxieties born from relationships and marriage. And akin to real life, Company has no plot to speak of.

There are incidents and anecdotes and encounters that blend from one to the other with no specific purpose beyond examining the threads of these people’s personalities and lives, weaving them together into a mosaic depicting how wonderful and/or awful it is to be single and/or married. For 40+ years, audiences have been challenged by this complicated show, and it is a testament to the adventurous spirit of Jubilee Theatre that they not only trust their audience to give a production like this a chance but also that they’ve done the materiel justice with a production that lives up to the high standard a Sondheim musical demands.

Company begins with the married and engaged friends of 35 year old Manhattanite, Robert, as they have a go at throwing him a surprise birthday party. The opening number, conveniently called “Company”, is an intricately composed one and is the first of many challenging pieces which the Jubilee cast attacks with great gusto. It sets a strong tone and offers a quick-sketch of the characters that will be fleshed out as the musical rolls on. It also establishes the dreamy, episodic nature of the world Sondheim constructs.

The sparse, vaguely cosmopolitan set designed by Brian Clinnin is a raised hardwood floor, a window glamorously overlooking the New York skyline, some simple knee level cabinetry housing the scotch and mixed drink sets. It is sleek and versatile, becoming whatever the scene calls for. It is Robert’s apartment, a secret trail in Central Park, a dance club, a high rise terrace. Something new from one moment to the next, much like the show’s central character, Robert.

Robert, performed by Lloyd Harvey, is a cipher, being all things to all people. As the second act opens and his companions sing “Side by Side by Side / What Would We Do Without You?”, Lloyd is lauded by his friends as much as he is pitied by the audience for his freedom to be whatever he wants to be at any moment. Harvey plays Robert in two modes: smug joviality when his defenses are up, and resigned confusion in the few moments they are down. In either mode, Robert is equal parts likeable and loathsome, able to charm/deceive with shallow good nature.

He is a difficult man to pin down so Harvey avoids that dilemma by being direct and broad in his choices, always playing a distinct black or white, selecting only the occasional moment, here or there, to let us see the subtler shades of gray behind his eyes. Though it mostly works for the character of Robert, it is a performance that could benefit from a lighter touch in places, something more natural, less annunciated.

It would be interesting to watch Harvey relax into the role over the course of the run because he is certainly an attractive performer who fits comfortably in the shoes of this enigma of a character.

As the opening number comes to an end and Robert’s friends smile politely when he fails to extinguish the candles on his birthday cake, the play turns its first of many a neat trick wherein the spotlight is focused on the supporting characters. Where Robert is slick and ungraspable, the happily and antagonistically married Harry and Sarah offer the first detour in Sondheim and Furth’s exploration of so-called wedded bliss.

As played by Ben Phillips and Tracy Nachelle Davis, Harry and Sarah are madly in love and a source of constant annoyance to one another. Phillips is just enough of a schlub that you can’t take anything he says seriously, until he performs one of Sondheim’s underrated gems, “Sorry-Grateful”, and you realize the depths of his wisdom. The flip side of the matrimonial coin is Sarah, played by Davis as the yin to Harry’s yang. Davis’ Sarah is more prim and exacting, but like her husband, able to confound expectations by way of a karate demonstration that is staged to unexpected and comedic perfection. Davis and Phillips play off one another beautifully and are a highlight of the show.

Three more married couples call on Robert, the first being the insensibly upbeat Peter and Susan, played by Scott Sutton and Kenneisha Thompson. Where Robert’s smug smile is a mask, Peter and Susan’s are those of an unassuming Buddha. Sutton and Thompson invest their couple with charm far more sincere than Robert’s, and are so perfectly happy with one another that not even a subsequent divorce can spoil their bliss. More stable (and consequently less blissful) are David and Jenny who of all the couples seem the youngest and most innocent. William Massey and Octavia Thomas play them like the two smart kids in high school who ended up married. They are calm and level-headed and honest about the compromises they’ve made for their relationship.

Robert also finds time to visit with the oldest of his circle of friends, Joanne, who is half-heartedly trying to make sense of her third marriage to the affable Larry. Michele Rene’s Joanne boils over with burnt-out cynicism and really gets to unleash with a satisfying rendition of “The Ladies Who Lunch”, a defiant and ultimately mournful reflection on the self. Marcus Mauldin is patient in introducing his character Larry who seems nothing more than another trophy on the Joanne’s wall through most of the first act. When his moment arrives, he makes the most of it and before our eyes redefines not just their relationship but Joanne as a character. It’s a brief but strong moment for Mauldin.

Paul and Amy aren’t married but soon will be, and are yet another iteration of the perfect couple. This time, an eternally patient being is matched up with a neurotically self-loathing one. Brad Stephens’ Paul is the epitome of another trend in Company: the grinning idiot. Stephens’ spotlight scene sees him become a sounding board for his far more overt fiancée Amy, played with manic befuddlement by Meg Shideler.

Rather than match her physically, Stephens grins idiotically, tinting his patient smile with an impressive range of reactions to the sometimes hurtful bombardment of unfiltered thoughts from his bride. And passive acceptance is about all one can expect to muster against the force of nature that is Shideler’s Amy once she gets going. Kudos to Ms. Shideler for a bravado performance of “Getting Married Today”, one of the more difficult comedic songs in the American Theater Songbook. She performs the number with an impressive blend of speed, diction, and personality and brings the house down with her big finish.

And lest one thinks Robert spends all his time hanging out with married couples, we are also introduced to three of his current significant others. Marta, Kathy, and April are a Greek Chorus of sorts, harmonizing beautifully and already exuding strong individual personalities as they bemoan the nebulous intentions of Robert in “You Could Drive A Person Crazy”. The three interact again with the lovely “Another Hundred People” as they take turns giving us slice-of-life moments that allude to their histories with Robert. Whitney Coulter’s Marta is a free spirit, probably a bit too contemplative and in love with the world around her for the far more buckled down Robert.

Katreeva Phillips is Kathy, whose connection to Robert is probably the strongest but whose honestly with herself trumps any deeper relationship he’d like to make. And Alison Hodgson’s flight attendant April is a much deeper and textured character than the dizzy flight attendant realizes. Another theme in Company is one person or institution being in its truest form when it manages to occupy two opposite states. Hodgson somehow manages to find both the sublime truth and monumental density in April and almost steals the show in her brief moments.

As mentioned above, the set by Brian Clinnin offers an effective canvas on which to paint Company’s various scenes, as do the costumes by Barbara O’Donoghue which provide the actors with some great visual characterization. From Harry’s frumpy short-sleeve button-up to Larry’s dapper and flashy suit; from the earthy head-scarfed Marta to the simple sophistication of Jenny; the diversity of the cast is highlighted by Ms. O’Donoghue, who finds a wardrobe distinct to each of the myriad personalities on stage. This collaboration between costumer and actor brings to life an entire stage full of vivid and believable people. And special mention to Musical Director Michael Plantz and his three-piece orchestra who are so expertly hidden and perfectly synched up with the goings-on on the stage, I didn’t even realize until intermission that I’d been listening to live music.

And finally, praise must be given to the two masterminds behind the show, the first being Jubilee’s Artistic Director, Tre Garrett, for thinking outside the box and bringing a show like Company to Jubilee Theatre. And the second being Director Harry Parker for capturing a complicated blend of dreamy non-linear story-telling and grounded recognizable characters. That all the disparate parts feel like a cohesive whole when all is said and done is the sign of a hard-earned success.

Dallas-Fort Worth theater-goers should treat and challenge themselves and make plans to see Jubilee Theatre’s Company.

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COMPANY Review – Star-Telegram

Review: Jubilee’s ‘Company’ a fine departure for Fort Worth theater

By Punch Shaw
Special to the Star-Telegram

If you want to judge a show by the company it keeps, this Company has a good one.

A talented and nicely balanced cast carry the day in Jubilee Theatre’s production of this 1970 Stephen Sondheim musical, which opened at the downtown venue last weekend.

The focus of this romantic comedy, which mitigates its humor with biting insight, is Bobby (Lloyd Harvey) — a single ladies’ man with a wide circle of married friends. As he grapples with the pros and cons of matrimony, we look at the relationships of those around him through his eyes. And, because this is Sondheim instead of some lesser musical composer, we are given no easy answers. The more Bobby looks at the marriages around him, the more confused and conflicted he becomes about commitment.

Harvey has the look and feel of his character down well in this production, directed by Harry Parker, TCU theater department chair. His vocals are not dazzling, but he handles Sondheim’s tricky musical demands well enough.

But it is difficult for any one singer to stand out in a production with so many strong voices. The songs are spread out across the large cast, but we hear just enough to appreciate what a versatile singer Alison Hodgson (as the flighty flight attendant April) is, and how rich and resonant a voice Marcus M. Mauldin (Larry) has. We also hear too little of the smooth vocals delivered by Scott Sutton (Peter) and Ben Phillips (Harry).

The acting is quite good also. Harvey carries the show with no evidence of strain. Hodgson plays the dumb blonde (a stock character that looks easy to play, but is not) beautifully. And Meg Shideler (Amy) and Whitney Coulter (Marta) enlarge their parts with highly caffeinated performances.

And the music provided by an unseen trio, led by musical director Michael Plantz, is ably rendered.

So there is no question that this is a polished interpretation of this musical. But a larger issue is whether this show is right for this house.

Since its inception, Jubilee has been proud of serving the black community in particular with productions by black authors, featuring predominantly black casts. Presenting a mainstream musical such as this one, with a cast including about equal numbers of black and white performers, is a bit of a departure. It may raise the question of whether a show that is so “white,” Manhattan-centric and 1970s-ish in its origins is a good choice, given what the audience has come to expect from Jubilee.

But the reality is that this show is not as much of a shift for the theater as it may seem. Jubilee has always been exceptionally open on issues of race. Nearly all of its productions have involved artists of various ethnic backgrounds, even when we have seen an all-black cast onstage.

So there is no reason Jubilee should not be doing a show like this. I would like to think it serves the theater’s core audience and mission as well as anything else it has presented.

The regular patrons of his troupe may or may not embrace Company (probably more because it might seem dated, rather than anything to do with race). But Jubilee artistic director Tre Garrett deserves kudos for taking a chance on this type of show. It reminds us that we are all better off when we are more open-minded about the company we keep.

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COMPANY Review – Edge Dallas

by Doug  Dodasovich
EDGE Contributor

If you’re seeking relief/entertainment from the Texas 111- degree summer and you’ve exhausted the bats and spiders or require a more adult, sophisticated form of entertainment you couldn’t ask for better company than attending a shining, hot production of Fort Worth’s Jubilee Theatre’s final production of its 31st season: Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.”

Beyond the ubiquitous “Into The Woods” or the occasional “Sweeney Todd,” a DFW Sondheim production is rare. Nearly any Sondheim production demands singing and acting chops of the highest degree from every member of the company. This challenge makes it difficult for most companies to fill not only the lead roles, but also every role with top-tier talent. All of which makes Jubilee’s bold and ambitious “Company” all the more impressive; they make it look easy.

“Company” revolves around 35-year old bachelor Bobby (Robert, Bob, Bubby, etc.), his five married/coupled friends and three of his girlfriends. The action begins and ends at a wealthy, Upper-Manhattan apartment where the five couples have gathered for Bobby’s surprise birthday party.

The remainder of the show is presented in no particular chronological order as a series of vignettes each featuring Bobby and one of the couples or one of the girlfriends all of whom are worried/eager for Bobby to settle down and get married. While each vignette is played out, another character comments or sings in a Greek-chorus style, about the individual vignette on display.

Jubilee’s “Company” is brilliant, engaging, thought-provoking entertainment. Harry Parker directs fluidly and seamlessly and along with Artistic Director Tre Garrett, has assembled a marvelous cast. Set Designer Brian Clinnin keeps things simple yet elegant. Above the ground-level performing space, Clinnin has built a low-rising tri-tiered set glimmering with polished solid-wood floors set against a large, semi-circular window highlighting the skyline of Manhattan (and implying the wealth necessary to afford such a view). Musical Director Michael Plantz keeps the score minimal which seems appropriate for Jubilee’s small space. Although it makes you yearn to hear the score performed by a full orchestra in a larger venue.

Lloyd Harvey as Bobby is a delight. Harvey is handsome and charming with a strong stage presence (he’s in every scene) and voice. 2012 is becoming a breakout year for Harvey as Bobby is his second major lead role this year (the other being Uptown Player’s “Take Me Out.”)

As an ensemble, all 14 (!) principals are tight and sharp as shown in the second act opener “Side By Side/What Would We Do Without You.” Meg Shideler nearly stops the show as Amy, a lovable, neurotic mess who develops not merely cold, but frozen feet on her wedding day. Shideler’s “Getting Married Today” is terrific. Alison Hodgson is mesmerizing as April. April is one of Bobby’s three girlfriends, a self-described dumb flight attendant. Hodgson is anything but, displaying mature, comedic nuances and a voice that nearly surpasses her looks. Jubilee vet Marcus M. Mauldin (married Larry) is given few lines but inhabits his character like a fine-fitted Italian suit.

With few exceptions, the rest of the cast provides solid performances. Slightly disappointing were Ben Phillips and Tracy Nachalle Davis (as Harry and Sarah) who play an alcoholic/binge-eater couple who delight in pointing out each other’s faults. They are given clever, passive-aggressive lines that need to be attacked with more bite and venom. Michelle Rene (JoAnne) nails “The Little Things You Do Together” singing counterpoint to Harry and Sarah’s frolics.

JoAnne is one of “Company’s” more complex characters — oft-married, sassy and saucy — and she gets to sing arguably the best and well-known song in the show: “The Ladies Who Lunch.” In the song, JoAnne is mocking the purposeless, self-absorbed wealthy Manhattan wives she sees everyday. But during the song’s climactic finale, JoAnne realizes that she herself is one of those wives.

Rene’s “Ladies” lacks the passionate poignant pathos that the song demands. Instead, Rene powers and belts her way through the song. “Ladies” is a song that doesn’t require perfect pitch. However it does demand tension and emotion as the song slowly builds with multiple key changes, pauses and nuances up to the final bars of the repeating lyric “Rise” which if sung correctly can literally move an audience to their feet.

There are many reasons to celebrate Jubilee’s “Company.” First, it’s just damn great. Second, Jubilee Theatre is North Texas’ premiere African-American theatre, thriving for 31 years in less than tolerant Fort Worth, Texas (which has less than a 20 percent African-American population).

Staging a Sondheim show about wealthy, Upper Manhattan Caucasians is a ballsy move for Jubilee. It’s refreshing to see a show (anywhere in the DFW metroplex) so well produced that no one bats an eye that the lead character is African-American, that half the characters in this African-American theater are cast with Caucasians and that the show features an inter-racial couple.

All of this works because the theme of “Company” is color-blind and universal: marriage is hard work. Marriage is filled with love, companionship and bliss, but it also has its valleys where selfishness, pettiness, unhappiness and more reside. Well done, Jubilee.

“Company” was revolutionary in many ways when it debuted on Broadway in 1970. Sondheim (after writing the lyrics for such traditional shows as “West Side Story” and “Gypsy”), literally evolved the American musical by presenting a show with no linear plot, no chronological order and with an open-ended finale (what does happen to Bobby?).

Company” scored a record 14 Tony nominations, winning six including Best Musical, Best Director, Best Book (George Furth), Best Music, Best Lyrics and Best Scenic Design (Boris Aronson.)

“Company” was ahead of its time by featuring a 35-year-old unmarried man as a lead. While it is now more commonplace to wait until your 30s to get married, the opposite was true in 1970. Predating the Women’s Liberation Movement by a few years, it also featured three single, employed women in the Big Apple. One male character even asks Bobby if he has ever had a homosexual experience and both men admit that they had.

A documentary of the recording of the original cast recording of “Company” was made shortly after the show opened. It most notably features original JoAnne, Elaine Stritch, struggling to record the essential “Ladies Who Lunch.” There was a 1995 and a 2006 revival of “Company.” The 2006 revival won the Tony for Best Revival and was filmed live; the DVD and Blu-ray of the 2006 revival is widely available.

It was just announced this week that a 2011 New York Philharmonic concert staging of “Company” at Lincoln Center will be released on DVD and Blu-ray this fall. The staged concert version stars Neil Patrick Harris as Bobby and Patti LuPone as JoAnne.

Theatre is life. Cinema is art. Television is furniture. Get a life.

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In Good COMPANY

Brad Stephens has accepted the role of Paul in the upcoming Jubilee Theatre production of Company, directed by Dr. Harry Parker.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Company is a musical comedy about five married, once married, or soon to be married couples and their good friend, Robert, a young bachelor who has avoided long-term relationships. Eventually, Bobby learns that while relationships aren’t perfect, they can be a beautiful and necessary part of “Being Alive.”

Preview performances begin July 13th.  Show opens July 20th and runs through August 12, 2012.  Jubilee Theatre is located at 506 Main Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102.  For reservations and tickets, call the box office at 817-338-4411 or visit www.jubileetheatre.org.

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