Conversation with “Company”
By Daniella Bassi ’14, Section Editor
Amherst College’s annual interterm musical premieres tonight at 8:30 p.m.for the eighth consecutive year, on this occasion featuring Sondheim’s “Company.” It is the third time one of Sondheim’s masterpieces resonates in the walls of Buckley Recital Hall. “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” was featured in 2004, and “Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” was performed last year. A. Scott Parry, a widely recognized music theater director who will also be directing Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore” for the New York City Opera in Mar. 2011, is directing the play in collaboration with Mark Swanson who is in charge of the Amherst College Symphony Orchestra.

We spoke to Lesile Roth ’13, Philip Menchaca ’12 and Siobhan McKissic ’12 of the “Company” cast to gain their perspective.

What is “Company” about?

Leslie Roth: The musical is actually just called Company, Sondheim’s play on the single word with its multiple meanings (hence the missing article). The piece explores the need for the company of others, and more specifically how it feels to be a guest, to be treated as “company”. Bobby, a single man living in New York, has many friends who are all quite coupled in various ways. When he visits, he’s constantly befuddled by feeling both like a third-wheel and a buffer or vehicle between the two significant others. Company has a great energy throughout. There are definitely some characteristic “showy” moments, but it is colored throughout by a sense of both satire and realism, witty humor and unadorned truth. Scenes skip between couples and his romantic flings, and while Bobby figures centrally, all of his friends have really pronounced quirks, and each character has import and nuance.

What is special about it?

Mark Swanson: Stephen Sondheim is widely acknowledged as the greatest composer/lyricist in the history of the Broadway musical, and Company is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece that revolutionized the American musical theater by focusing on real people with real joys and challenges in their lives. It is a “concept” musical in that the “action” takes place within just a moment or at most few minutes in the mind of Robert, the protagonist, a man who cannot commit to a relationship because he observes that no relationship among his married friends is “perfect.” The piece has won the Tony Award for best musical of 1970, and has won it also for best revival of a musical twice since 1970, attesting to its continuing relevance and timeliness.

A. Scott Parry: Sondheim’s Company is a show without a traditional chronological plot, but rather scenes and vignettes that explore the idea of the struggle of maintaining relationships in our ever more fractured and disillusioned modern society. It addresses the troubles and quirks of intimate relationships through the eyes of the main character, Robert. At times, it is bitterly cynical and it is often quite funny. The brilliant music and lyrics of the show communicate the pain and pleasure of relationships--some are melancholy and some are just silly--and it all feels quite real.

What should the audience know to better appreciate it?

Leslie Roth: The show seems to expand and intensify with every run, so I really can’t wait to share it with a live audience. What it needs as its finishing touch is an audience responding to and identifying with these situations and these crazy but all too familiar people. The audience should be ready to see themselves, their parents, their friends, and their family mirrored in these situations and these bold characters.

What’s special about the cast, and what has been your experience while working on this masterpiece?

Philip Menchaca: I’ve loved working with the cast all interterm--they’re a group of people who are quite serious about acting and singing. They are interested in understanding the show, not just performing it, so the show has developed soul; the cast experiences the show while performing it. I’m really happy to be part of it. I haven’t been in this type of production for awhile--and it will probably be my last theatrical endeavor in college--so I’m just trying to savor the whole thing.

Leslie Roth: I feel really lucky to be in such a dynamic cast. Working with these friends for the past three weeks has really been joyful. What was really exciting about the casting for the show was that some of the veteran interterm musical performers came back, while others auditioned for the first time, and I knew the newcomers from different Amherst activities: I take ballet with Roger, Darryl and I have the Bluestockings/Zumbyes connection, and so forth. Our whole cast has been working hard but always playfully. Scott had us play games together to develop character relationships. Phil and I play a couple, and since we won the Newlyweds game (set up by our director Scott), we received a gift card to go have lunch at Pasta E Basta to get to know each other better. We so enjoy singing this music, watching each other rise to the occasion of our scenes and solos, and just goofing around backstage that the repetition is exciting rather than tiring or redundant. This is the first time that I’ve performed a vocal solo on stage, and the song “Not Getting Married” really asks me to bring all my acting energy into the performance of the rapid text.

The cast for “Company” has put its mind, body and soul in its entirety into the musical. Their efforts have extended through the whole Interterm period into this first excruciating week of classes at the College and has actually doubled, according to Abigail Gray ’14, who informed us that they would be rehearsing twice a day in this final week leading to the premier. The performance, therefore, being of a critically acclaimed composition written by a master and being interpreted by some of the most devoted, artistic and passionate beings on campus, is bound to be magnificent. It’s the music event of the season that should not be missed. This being the case, there should be no doubt concerning attendance. 8:30 p.m. at Buckley today. The show will run through Saturday. Tickets for the opera are free for Amherst students and $10 for the public.

Issue 12, Submitted 2011-01-26 01:29:22