Masquerade Theatre's COMPANY
Column: The Naked Critic
is Musical Theatre at its Finest and This Production Gets My Best Locally Produced Musical Award of the 2009-2010 Season
So what if the set looks like the most recent Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's Company!
Masquerade Theatre has mounted an absolutely fabulous and brilliant production of Company.
It is difficult to believe that this musical theatre company most recently mounted the polar opposite of Company,
a splendid production of the classical musical Camelot.
To suddenly turn around and then produce Company shows off the virtuosity, versatility, and mighty talent of Masquerade Theatre's Company.
Particularly considering that Masquerade Theatre is the only local theatre that relies only on the talent within its own company, rarely if ever hiring talent from the outside.
What makes Company so good?
First of all, I believe it to be Sondheim's most accessible, varied, melodic, and charming score to date.
And George Furth's book is as funny and pertinent today as when it was written forty years ago.
Second of all, Director Phillip Duggins has brilliantly cast Company, resulting in better performances than anyone in the cast of the Broadway revival.
Better than Broadway here in Houston?
Wake up, Houston, and smell the talent in your own backyard!
I take the time to promote theatre in my own hometown, Houston, because I wholeheartedly believe that we are abundantly rich enough in talent and treasure that we should be able to put to work many more locals than we do.
Yes, Theatre Under the Stars, the Alley, and Stages, I am talking about you, who import talent from New York, Chicago, or LA (or overseas) sometimes with no better results than could be found right here in Houston.
Maybe huge budgets necessitate going for the supposed "gold" because if that money isn't spent, then it is lost.
Case in point---the Alley Theatre's
$3 million not so wonderful Wonderland.
Masquerade Theatre's Company has a tiny budget, comparatively, and is a far superior show to the ill-conceived and over-produced Wonderland.
I would bank on the tiny budget of Masquerade Theatre any day.
Look how much they do with so little!
Proportionately, they do much more with their money than do other theaters blessed with mega-budgets.
Go see Company and you'll see what I mean!
It is a most magnificent production of a great musical which stands up beautifully since its inception in 1970.
The problems of upper-middle class marriages, what Company examines, has not changed one iota since 1970.
On opening night at Zilkha Hall on Saturday, April 10, a Teabagger in the audience shouted "Sacrilege!" during the first fight scene of Company.
Pray tell me what was being presented that was sacrilegious?
Should great theatre not challenge our perceptions?
How sad it is that Teabagger mentality has infiltrated the sacred world of theatre---perhaps this person should more closely examine his own life and marriage and what is sacrilegious there before spoiling someone else's sacred theatre experience.
Where do we begin to discuss the excellence of Masquerade Theatre's Company?
Let's start with the character of Bobby, a commitment-phobic bachelor on his 35th birthday, who becomes the center of a kaleidoscopic collage composed of the strange and revealing relationships of five crazy, neurotic, typical marriages and the three gals he is dating.
Allow me to preface my remarks about this excellent cast by saying that any one of the terrific actors in Masquerade Theatre's Company could have played any number of the roles in Company, interchangeably.
In order of appearance:
Luther Chakurian as Robert
Luther Chakurian is dynamite as Robert/Bobby, whose expressions are priceless and whose glorious tenor voice soars through the roof in "Being Alive."
Christine Zavakos is perfect and hilarious as the food conscious karate expert, Sarah, who can flip her husband to the floor.
Luther Chakurian as Robert
observes a fight between
Christine Zavakos as Sarah
and Luke Wrobel as Harry
Harry, her husband who has issues with alcohol, is superbly played by Luke Wrobel, whose "Sorry-Grateful" is beautifully rendered.
Laura Gray plays Southerner Susan (who has fainting spells often) with charm and grace, and matter-of-factly announces to Bobby that she and her husband are divorcing.
Michael J. Ross is funny as Susan's husband, Peter, who later makes an unsuccessful pass at Bobby with hilarious results.
Kristina Sullivan gets huge laughs in her first scene when she gets stoned and is perfect and priceless as Jenny.
We hear Sullivan's gorgeous "legit" soprano voice as she sings the intro to "Getting Married Today."
Aicardo Rivera as Jenny's husband, David, is perfect as the pot smoking corporate guy.
Allison Sumrall as the neurotic Amy who gets cold feet on her wedding day practically steals the show with her awesome and hilarious rendition of "Getting Married Today."
Adam Delka as Amy's Jewish husband-to-be, Paul, is strong and supportive even in the face of his wife-to-be's craziness.
Rebekah Dahl as the opinionated, alcoholic, and acerbic Joannne is fabulous.
Dahl blows the roof off the house with her amazing rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch."
John Gremillion is excellent as Larry, Joanne's latest husband, and knows how to handle her ups and downs.
Libby Evans as Marta, one of Robert's girlfriends, is splendid and sexy and knocks the lights out with her fabulous rendition of "Another Hundred People."
Catherine Taylor is excellent as Kathy, one of Robert's romances who reveals to him that she is getting married, much to his surprise.
Michelle Macicek is superb as flight attendant, April, who has a great acting scene and is wonderful in a duet with Chukurian called "Barcelona."
The three girlfriends are all fantastic and perfectly in sync in the clever and upbeat "You Could Drive a Person Crazy."
Perhaps the most intricately staged number is "Side by Side by Side" which
is brilliantly conceived by director Phillip Duggins, who, indeed, also serves as the show's choreographer---and a darn good one, too!
Rick Spitz wonderfully conducts the Company Orchestra and its twelve instruments.
The most recent Broadway revival of Company featured most of the actors playing musical instruments, which was rather gimmicky and did not fully encompass Sondheim's rich and sumptuous score.
Spitz captures all of the richness of Sondheim's amazing score.
The entire orchestra is upstage of the action.
Sally Gardner, extraordinary pianist, beautifully plays Sondheim's busy and difficult score with virtuosity.
Set design by Michael Tessier is superb.
Tessier has designed a beautiful open set (no curtain is ever used) which is a huge square platform turned on it's diagonal.
He effectively uses glossy black vinyl on the surfaces and stairs and a series of cubes which are covered with flat black vinyl. A black grand piano sits on the back portion of the platform.
Breakaway flats float across the back wall of the set, reminiscent of puzzle pieces that are either coming apart or being fitted together or both.
Lighting design by David Gipson is magical and magnificent.
He changes the colors on the back cyclorama which peeks through the puzzle piece backdrop with stunning and dramatic effects.
Costume design by Libby Evans is superb.
She puts everyone in variations of New York black and white and adds color to the black and white mosaic using a dash of bright turquoise to Robert's tie.
If you are a Sondheim fan, and I know there are many of us out there, then
YOU MUST RUN TO SEE this amazing production of Masquerade Theatre's Company.
This production easily wins my Best Locally Produced Musical Theatre Award for the 2009-2010 Theatre Season in Houston!
The show only runs two more performances in Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center:
Saturday, April 17 @ 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, April 18 @ 2:00 p.m.
For more information and/or to purchase tickets before they sell out, click on:
Published: 19 Apr 2010