Quote of the Day: Blow out the candles, Robert, and make a wish. Want something. Want something.
Joanne: I’ll take care of you.
Bobby: But, who will I take care of?
I had the pleasure of driving up to Grand Forks, ND last weekend to visit my college boy, take him out for dinner, and watch a local production of Company by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth. It was first produced in 1970, and this was my first time experiencing it. I’ve been missing out! Director Chris Berg used the original 1970’s script and set it in the 1970’s with fabulous vintage costumes (Amy Lyste). They used a sparse set (Evan Montgomery) of movable staircases and set pieces like couches, a table and chairs, and a bed that could easily roll in and out for scenes.
The show opens on Robert’s (Anthony Peterson) 35th Birthday. He’s contemplating life and relationships. All his married friends offer plenty of advice. They are in various stages of marital bliss, or not, and he professes to be happily single. And, single is good, for a while, but it can also be lonely. Independence and freedom from responsibility to another person are great, until you look up and realize you don’t have anyone to share the daily joys and sorrows. Robert likes variety and not being tied down, but in the end he longs for a deeper connection. I believe the entire show builds to Robert’s powerful ballad at the end, “Being Alive.” I got tears in my eyes. Anthony Peterson brought out all the emotions of this number, allowing us to forgive him for being callous with the women in his life, and root for a future of meaningful relationships and connection.
The supporting cast is excellent. I kept wondering if they pulled in professionals for this show. Sondheim is not easy to sing or perform. They did not print the actors’ bios in their program, nor highlight them on their website. However, I found bios, photos, and more on the Facebook page for Empire Arts Center. Their lead, Anthony Peterson, is a choir instructor in West Fargo. Many cast members have music degrees and/or extensive stage experience. Anneliese Wolfanger comes to us from Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Not only is she a talented singer/actor, she also has a lovely dance scene during the bedroom scene that was one of the highlights of the performance.
The musical score to Company is gorgeous. More like Sondheim’s A Little Night Music than the dark Sweeney Todd, or the second act of Into the Woods. Company is more thoughtful, and director Chris Berg allows the performers to shine without much distraction. The choreography (Casey Paradies) enhances the experience. Overall, a wonderful night out at the theater. We are all so grateful to be back in the seats. The Empire is requesting that all guests wear masks. They are seating the audience every other row, and encouraging social distancing. I was comfortable, happy, and thoroughly entertained by my night out in Grand Forks. It also offered me another great excuse to visit my college boy. I’ll be back for more theater in this year’s season.
You can visit the website for Empire Arts Center to get tickets for Company and upcoming shows: Annie (starring my former German and Speech student Misti Koop), and The Holiday Show! written by Kathleen Coudle King, also starring Misti Koop, and featuring the UND low brass ensemble and the ND ballet Co., and of course, Santa!