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35 and still a bachelor?


Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Book by George Furth.

Huntington Theatre Company.

Through June 22.

$12-$47, seniors & students with ID $5 off.

HTC Box Office: 266-0800.

Ticketmaster: 931-ARTS.

By Joel Rosenberg
Staff Reporter

When Stephen Sondheim's musical Company opened in 1970, political incorrectness referred to voting for Nixon. A lot has changed since then, and in 1995 and 1996 the show was revised and updated for its New York and London revivals. The Huntington Theatre is the first professional company to combine these revisions, and also the first professional production of the show in Boston since its pre-Broadway tryout in 1970. They do this amazing show justice, and will continue to do so until June 22.

A landmark in musical theater as the first "concept" musical, Company is George Furth's book set to music and it follows the central character Bobby through the days surrounding his 35th birthday. Still a bachelor, he peeks in on the worlds of the five married couples who have been his lifelong friends and who urge him to commit to one of his three-plus girlfriends and start a serious relationship. Each couple has a problem that Bobby happens to be present for, and each one resolves it.

Bobby is played well enough by Davis Gaines, who recently played the title role in Phantom of the Opera for almost 2,000 performances. Karen Mason turns in a notable performance as Joanne, the middle-aged, jaded New Yorker on her nth husband, looking to have an affair with Bobby, despite (or perhaps to spite) her loving husband Larry, performed by Walter Charles. Her song, "The Ladies who Lunch," deserves an ovation for the edge she gives it. Amy is performed by Tia Speros, who beautifully fills the house with mile-a-minute lyrics about cold feet in "Getting Married Today," complete with an on-stage chorus. And Bobby's not so bright flight-attendant female friend April is done nicely by Marie Danvers.

After the first act of the show, one might think there's nowhere to go but down. However Daniel Pelzig's choreography takes over the stage in the opening of the second act, brilliantly preforming Sondheim's "Side by Side by Side" tribute to chorus lines, which is complete with canes and top hats. Between this number, "The Ladies Who Lunch," and the bittersweet duet "Barcelona" between April and Bobby, the show comes off as almost overwhelming.

The set is a great rendition of a New York loft, and a different painting (indicative of the profession they've given Bobby) adorns the background for each vignette, which is a nice touch. The show also frames each scene well, making great use of the props already on stage. Creative use of colors in the costumes focuses attention where it should be paid. The orchestra is okay, although at times it doesn't feel as tight as a professional orchestra should.

Rent has come and gone, impressing many with it's loud rock score and 90s themes. Les Mis is back in town, weaving a 3 1/2 hour tale about the life of a convict with epic music. Company is quite unlike either of these other two, acting more as a commentary on people than as a story about them. Unlike Rent, the show would be incomprehensible without the songs. And unlike Les Mis, even the small characters are well developed because you feel you've shared a very important moment in their lives.

It's a wonderful performance of a show most people have only heard of, or at least haven't seen in ages, and should not be missed. Be forewarned about bringing a date, however -some of the themes might be somewhat advanced for an early relationship. Either way, it should make for some interesting conversation and a good time.