Accompanied by Delightful “Company” on a Musical Journey
By Daniella Bassi ’14, A&L Section Editor
Last Wednesday evening the much-awaited musical, “Company” premiered on the stage of Buckley Recital Hall as Amherst College’s eighth-annual Interterm musical. A condensed version of the devoted Amherst Symphony Orchestra sat in the pit while Assistant Musical Director James Laff ’09 conducted. On stage, the singers, for the most part clad in everyday clothes, portrayed varieties of married couples that, though specific to the composition’s birth era (the 1970s) in terms of the expressions and colloquialisms used, still exist in contemporary society and were easy to relate to.

Rebecca Eppler-Epstein ’12 and Darryl Weimer ’11E played Sarah and Harry, an example of a constantly bickering and disagreeing couple that as a result fail to be united and supportive of each other in public — Sarah makes Harry look silly when Robert is over by disagreeing with about his abandonment of alcohol — but the couple connects through these constant mini battles, finding love there. Susan and Peter, played by Molly Doyle ’11 and Roger Creel ’13, exemplify a romantically bonded, enamored couple (whose flaw could be said to be clinginess) though they are getting a divorce, a marriage-discouraging factor for Robert. Jenny and David, played by Rachel Hanauer (UMass ’11) and Forrest Hudes ’12, are opposites to the outsider looking in. He is a kind of social misfit — shown in the musical by his all-black attire, facial stubble and weed-smoking activity among other things — and she a more reserved, timorous “square,” as she dubs herself. But they know each other well and have a serious bond.

Amy and Paul, interpreted by Leslie Roth ’13 and Philip Menchaca ’12E, have cultural differences — he’s Jewish and she’s Christian — for which they are criticized by society and which makes them doubt their relationship. This is more true for Amy, who, in a fit, desires to cancel the wedding day. They have also lived together unmarried for a long time, which also exacerbates pressure from society. Although, Amy has melodrama issues, Paul is the calming glue that keeps them together. The last couple is Joanne and Larry, portrayed by Julie Moorman ’11 and Daniel Freije ’11; they are the wealthy couple of the group. Joanne, though visibly vain, selfish, obnoxious and indifferent toward her husband, is known by the end to have his love; she has no further bitterness or qualms about remaining with him, as they leave the nightclub together at the end of Act II. Their relationship is one of mutual interdependence.

These vignettes of common relationship models (and the undeniable flaws each one has) and balances of power and expressions of love are the bulk of the musical. When interjected with scenes of Robert’s thought processes, these models become a manifestation he has against getting married despite the social pressure to do so. This pressure asserts itself when he turns 35 in the form of the realization that he is again the bachelor among a group of friends who are all married already. The potholes that all serious relationships come with scare him away from wanting to attach himself to someone, which he expresses when he sings “Marry me a Little”. He wants only the positive effects of marriage: company, love and the closest friendship available.

The singers, in their performance of the parts, were very candid, emotional and realistic. The characters were real; they were not rigid, stiff or forced in any way. They resonated with their issues and simultaneous love for one another and succeeded in convincing the audience that they were a tight-knit circle of old friends, living around each other and concerned for their unattached friend. The singing had a good blend of male and female voices, making it pleasant to listen to. The female voices, which in their incredible capacity to fly up the staff could come across as piercing, weren’t so because they were always backed and supported by smooth, wide and harmonious low male voices (never thunderous or overpowering.)

Each character also had wonderful spotlight solo parts, which came across as spontaneous, entertaining and a wonderful break from the expected vignette pattern of the piece. Amy’s (Roth) solo was one of the most prominent performances, full of drama and movement and amazing characterization of a vacillating character, which she emphasized by switching between true singing and melodic talking. Joanne’s (Moorman) solos were also great, funny and full of developmental details for the piece. Her voice, which was on the lower end of the female pitch range, was warm, unique and interesting to listen to. Robert’s (Ressler) virtually ongoing solo, as the protagonist, was also well done. His voice was a great pick for the main character because its range was not extremely low or high in the male register and fit perfectly between the more extreme voices of the other men and women. Everyone enunciated well in their singing, which as an audience member I greatly appreciated.

The music of the Amherst Symphony Orchestra was the icing on the cake but also the plate beneath it, bringing support, reality and emphasis to the singers on stage. They played with incredible fluidity, technical flawlessness, rhythm, intonation and nuance which left the music perfectly synchronized with the performance. The orchestratral were expressive and full of dynamics but never covered the singers, and always helped bring the attention to them rather than distracting the audience with their playing. All the musicians had wonderful, warm and full tones on their instruments and played with admirable dexterity: the trumpets articulated quickly and cleanly many times and achieved an amazing piano volume under the singers and the flute solo was played emotionally. The trombones were also clear, regal and projected beautifully in some soli parts they had. The strings, clarinet, piano and percussion sections created a very light and smooth background to instrumental and vocal soloists through the whole performance.

The musical ended with Robert blowing his own candles out, implying that he finally made a wish, which was probably a desire for a wife after realizing that marriage is made of ups and downs but ultimately grants one a partner to stick it out with in life. This full-circle ending was masterful, bringing us back to where we started, as if no time had passed, yet with myriad thoughts about the nature of relationships flickering in our minds.

Issue 13, Submitted 2011-02-02 00:21:21