Monday, December 12, 2011


Stephen Sondheim has won more Tony Awards than any other composer, including a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, not to mention an Academy Award, multiple Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Laurence Olivier Award.  As a youth, he was mentored by none other than Oscar Hammerstein II and on his eightieth birthday in 2010 a Broadway theatre was named in his honor.

More than four decades ago he penned a musical, with book by George Furth and choreography by Harold Prince, about relationships, the challenges of dating and the joys and trials of marriage.  West Hartford’s gem of a non-profit theater, Playhouse on Park, will be shining a spotlight on this delightfully revised production until Sunday, December 18.

The story centers around Bobby, a charming albeit confused bachelor in the capable hands of Ryan Speakman, who is barely acknowledging his thirty-fifth birthday, a milestone his friends are determined he will not forget.  Afraid of being alone and uncommitted, Bobby is still alternately enthusiastic and ambivalent about wedded bliss.

Surrounding him are five couples in varying stages of matrimony, starting with the cynical and brassy Joanne (Amanda Bruton) married to the easy going, accommodating Larry ( Ben Beckley).  The cigarette smoking, alcohol consuming Joanne belts out a powerful “The Ladies Who Lunch.”

Joanne isn’t the only one with a drinking problem.  Harry (Erik Agle) has had difficulties with the law over his alcohol consumption while wifey Sarah (Meredith Swanson) envies people who eat dessert and she might use karate to get your cookies.

For David (Scott Caron) and Jenny (Hillary Ekwall), if the answer isn’t marijuana, then it might be divorce.  In the case of Peter (Kevin Barlowski) and Susan (Victoria Thornsbury), their stance is that a person is not complete until they’re married, while Paul (Brian Detiefs) has quite the reluctant bride- to- be in Amy (Jennifer Lauren Brown).  Amy’s fear of the altar translates into the adorable tune “Getting Married Today” which exposes her lack of certainty.

On the list of Bobby’s female companions, we find April (Lea Nardi) Marta (Keisha Gilles) and Kathy (Alexandra Cutler), each of whom fails to make the cut.  The staging of such numbers as “Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You,” complete with a parade of kazoos, is simply wonderful.  “Company” is creatively directed and choreographed by Leslie Unger.

For tickets ($22.50-32.50), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford (exit 43, off I-84) at 860-523-5900, ext. 10, or online at  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Get your calendars ready for Playhouse on Park has a plethora of great events on tap, starting with Saturday, December 31, New Year’s Eve, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.  Prepare to go on the high seas to discover a killer.  If you want, you can even dress in character for this interactive party that includes bounteous appetizers, desserts, champagne and other libations.  Tickets are only $55.

Intrigue continues in the ingenious comedy “The Mystery of Irma Vep” when a pair of actors plays multiple roles in a fascinating farce set on the English moors, January 11-20.
Also on the entertainment agenda are stop/time dance theater, children’s shows, comedy nights and improv jams and special events like The Amanda Carr Quintet presents Songs from the Heart of the American Songbook, Saturday, February 11 at 8 p.m., just in time for Valentine’s Day ($25).

Help Bobby discover the joys of “Company,” where “Being Alive” means not being alone.


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