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Company: Sardines Review

Company: Sardines Review

“Lindley Players certainly raised the bar with their production and is one of the finest musical productions I have seen for a few years.”

Original Article by Cheryl Barrett, Sardines Review – Tuesday 25th October 2016

An evening spent in wonderful ‘Company’ with The Lindley Players

Lindley Players latest production, the Tony award winning musical ‘Company’ played to almost full houses at the Playhouse Theatre, Whitstable. A musical comedy, based on the book by George Furth and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, it had the lot – consummate performances by the cast, outstanding music and vocals, a well-designed set and plenty of humour. ‘Company’ is one of those musicals, which, if staged well, can raise a show to another level and Lindley Players certainly raised the bar with their production and is one of the finest musical productions I have seen for a few years.

‘Company’ revolves around Robert (Bobby), a single man with three girlfriends who is unable to commit fully to a steady relationship, and consists of a series of comedy vignettes which show the lives of Robert’s married friends. During his 35th birthday party with his friends Robert realises that he wants what they have – a good marriage, however as he spends time with each couple we get a greater insight into their not so perfect relationships as the cracks start to appear. Sondheim’s wonderful score brings the whole thing to life.

Robert, (‘Bobby baby, Bobby honey, Robby’ etc) was played by Sam Wall who played the part with total conviction conveying the character’s charm, wit and vulnerability. Wall displayed wonderful comic timing in his bedroom scene with April (Alice Martin) when he tries to dissuade her from going to Barcelona. His rich vocals were perfect as he sang ‘Someone Is Waiting’ and ‘Marry Me A Little’ in Act One, but his final number ‘Being Alive’ was outstanding and touched everyone with its vulnerability and honesty – there were a few of us wiping away tears. A stellar performance.

The married couples’, Harry and Sarah (Glyn Maflin and Mandy Hunt); Peter and Susan (Chris Ifill and Louise Blakey); David and Jenny (Nik Waller and Vicky Wilsher); Paul and Amy (Derry Martin and Cheryl Mumford); and Larry and Joanne (Derek Brown and Bettina Walker), seemingly perfect marriages were stripped bare as Robert spent time in their company, ‘just be the three of us, only the three of us’.

Glyn Maflin and Mandy Hunt provided plenty of comedy during Harry and Sarah’s karate moments, especially as we see the impact that Sarah’s dieting and Harry’s no-booze is having on their daily lives. I enjoyed Robert, David and Jenny’s silliness during the pot smoking scene on the front stoop as they all giggled and let their hair down before reality kicked back in. There were some lovely moments from Chris Ifill and Louise Blakey when their characters Peter and Susan’s reveal to Robert that they are divorced but living together happily. Bettina Walker and Derek Brown gave a good portrayal of rich couple Joanne and Larry. Walker’s rendition of ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ wasn’t as gin-sodden as it could have been given Joanne’s proclivity for drink, but she hit the right notes with plenty of irony.

One of the stand out performances of the show was during Amy and Paul’s wedding scene, which had the audience in fits of laughter. The patter song ‘Getting Married Today’ can be quite a challenge, however Cheryl Mumford coped admirably, cantering through the song at a rapid pace without missing a beat, blending humour and pathos as Amy, a woman facing her doubts on her wedding day. Miss Mumford executed perfect comic timing as she conveyed Amy’s prenuptial breakdown and certainly put the sofa to good use as she stomped across it. I enjoyed the humour of this piece, especially Mumford’s facial expressions when she vented her anger on the choir girl.

Alice Martin, Leanne Hardy and Sian Leigh Webb played Bobby’s three girlfriends April, Marta and Kathy. Angry at the way they have been treated by Bobby the three women attack him through song, ‘You Could Drive A Person Crazy’. As if Robert didn’t have enough to contend with dating three girlfriends the husbands sang ‘Have I Got A Girl For You’. When Robert does bed his girlfriend April the wives sing about her unsuitability in the song ‘Poor Baby’.

Music Director, Diana Whybrow, led her eight-piece orchestra through Sondheim’s score with ease and didn’t overpower the big numbers ‘Company’ and ‘Side By Side’.

Director Larry Dobin’s set concept was well thought out and designed by Peter Harrington. Scaffolding and steps were used to represent New York. The stage was well utilised with many levels which conveyed the front steps of David and Jenny’s home, and Peter and Susan’s elevated apartment terrace, which also concealed Robert’s bed – great use of space for setting furniture. Half of the eight-piece orchestra sat above the other musicians on scaffolding in what was reminiscent of the two tier roadways that run through New York. Costumes had been thought out and suited each character. Sound and lighting were effective throughout and used to distinguish time and place, as were the images of the New York/Manhattan skyline and buildings during Marta’s rendition of ‘Another Hundred People’. Other visual images were used ingeniously, a large oblong screen represented a mobile phone at the beginning of the show as Robert checked his phone for messages images of the characters relaying their messages were projected onto the screen. This added a modern feel to the production. Effective visuals and lighting were used in the night club scene and I like the way the screen was utilised during the song ‘Ladies Who Lunch’, depicting ladies at lunch.

This was musical theatre of a high calibre and Director Larry Dobin is to be congratulated on casting and staging. The American accents were flawless and maintained throughout. This was a well-executed piece of theatre and a thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment. Well done to all involved.

Photography by Tim Hinchliffe