Review: BrightSide Theatre’s Company

Music and Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Book: George Furth
Location: BrightSide Theatre
Director: Jeffrey Cass
Music Director: Justin Potter

Acting: like
Singing: like
Set: meh
Staging: like
Choreography: Could do without

Standouts: Jess Iovinelli as Amy, Michelle McKenzie-Voigt at Joanne, Peter Sipla as Robert

So my friend got me to be her date for “industry night” at BrightSide Theatre for Company. Company was one of those shows that liked a lot of the songs, but the book is either hit or miss depending on what the actors and director bring to the table.

For the most part… the show did well. I would be the first to admit that there were moments that I was scrunching my face up in all sorts of strange contortions because of the choreography or movement that the actors were doing. In fact… to me movement is suppose to either move the story along or enhance it, and in this production Company the movement work detracts from the singing and acting to the point that it probably hinders the singing and acting. But I digress.

The first number to really catch my attention was “The Little Things You Do Together”, particularly the lines that were sung by Joanne as portrayed by Michelle McKenzie-Voigt. Just everything she did during this number was drawing my attention with ease and in a very good way. You knew right off the bad the kind of character she was and I was waiting with anticipation (maybe not that extreme) until her big moment towards the end of the production to decide if she was worth waiting for…

The next number to really catch my attention was “Getting Married Today” particularly one Jess Iovinelli who portrayed Amy the young lady who was about to be married to Paul. The frantic undertones during her moment was not just spot on but hilariously funny. In fact… her performance was so engaging I went to my friend and whispered “she is worth the price of admission”. And I stick to that… in hindsight there were other reasons overall that made the show worthwhile but I am getting ahead of myself.

During the second act the song that did it for me was Michelle McKenzie-Voigt’s moment in the spotlight with “The Ladies Who Lunch”. Granted the Chicago Theatre Review made mention that it appears that Michelle’s rendition of the song was a bit forced… but I thought that in a lot of ways this was more of her character choice and it appeared to be rather seamless to me.

As for the center of the production, Peter Sipla deserves more than a mere commendation for his interpretation of Robert but also for going through the production whilst getting over a sinus infection. Very well done, he hit the highs and lows of his character as he observes the couples around him until finally hitting a moment with Joanne when she presses him that she would “take care of him” to which his soft spoken blink and you would miss reply of “then who would I take care of?”. This epiphany leads him into his heartbreaking rendition of “Being Alive” which… considering that his nose was red and it would appear that he was still under was still pretty darn good.

One of the things that my friend and I noticed right off the bat was that each of the five couples had amazing chemistry with one another from the “karate” fight between Sarah and Harry (Julie Ann Kornak and Matt Gidson respectively) to Jenny and David (Sarah Page and Dan Maxon). From Susan and Peter (Katy Harth and Peter Durkin) to Amy and Paul (Jess Iovinelli and Steven Attanasie)… and finally Joanne and Larry (Michelle McKenzie-Voigt and Jim Heatherly)… the chemistry between each couple was not only realistic, but palpable too. You could actually believe them to truly be couples. Not a weak couple in sight.

As for the three single ladies… none truly stood out for me, which I found to be rather odd because for some reason the “single” characters (outside of Robert) felt weaker overall than the “coupled” characters, not that this was the intent but it did have a feeling of people are stronger when with someone than alone.

Of the three single ladies (Amy Stricker as Marta, Angela Bubash as Kathy, and Allison Sill as April) I actually enjoyed Kathy and her moving dialogue with Robert. April was pleasantly airheaded and “dumb” but I felt she oversang her solo a bit. It was too nice and pretty… which maybe fits, but it seemed off to me. Marta during her moment in “Another Hundred People” did rather well but seemed to fall flat through her dialogue moments after having such an impact in her couple of lines in the opening song.

However, a lot of thing could probably have been rectified and cleaned up if it weren’t for the fact that it felt suspiciously like the actors were focusing more on the choreography (or movement in accordance to some people) than on their vocals. But again, since I already mentioned this before… I’ll stop.

Overall this was a good production and one with enough highlights to make the price of admission worthwhile for me. Heck… I would not mind going back to watch the standouts again because well… they were worth it.