Lyric Opera Theatre's 'Company' explores timeless issue of romantic commitment

With exceptional vocal and acting performances, it does so very well.

It's rare to find a musical that stands the test of time through multiple generations of theatergoers. Nevertheless, the ASU Lyric Opera Theatre's production of "Company" is just as charming as the 1970 Broadway original, which won seven Tony awards. 

With an impressive cast and dynamic vocals, the performance at the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre on Oct. 2 was a stirring narrative of the struggle to find that special someone in the midst of trying to find yourself.

"Company" centers around Robert (Alex Kunz), who is single on his 35th birthday, much to the dismay of all his married friends. They attempt to set him up with women and show him the benefits of married life, but he has a hard time looking past the imperfections in their relationships. No spouse is flawless and no couple is without its problems. Ultimately Robert must decide if a life-long relationship is worth the risk of commitment.

The plot may be simple, but the story is told through flashbacks of Robert's encounters with the various couples, set in no particular order. The nonlinear story line makes the seemingly straightforward tale much more complicated.

With a jumbled plot, the musical relies on its actors to drive the narrative forward. The Lyric Opera succeeded in that respect. Everyone on stage demonstrated an impressive capability for both acting and singing. 

Each role required its actor to demonstrate multiple layers of the characters' complicated dynamics, boiling beneath the surface of their marriages, including addiction, divorce, adultery and fear of commitment. The cast members were able to juggle the oversaturated peppiness of the musical numbers with the underlying conflict to create a musical that connected catchy songs to raw emotion.

In terms of vocals, the cast of musical theater students had certainly done their homework. Two actors in particular stood out in terms of vocal strength: Kunz, who plays the protagonist Robert, and Emily Doering, who plays his jaded and racy friend Joanne. Both actors performed solos (notably Kunz's "Marry Me a Little" and "Being Alive" and Doering's "The Ladies Who Lunch") that highlighted their onstage ability to combine character with incredible vocal talent.

The main (and only major) criticism of the performance was that many times the actors' voices got lost in the thundering music of the orchestra. In a relatively small theater, it should have been easy to hear each cast member. Group numbers and powerful choruses were fine, but during most of the songs' verses, the solo vocalists couldn't rise above the power of the live instrumental backing. At best it was frustrating, and at worst it was detrimental to the plot. With better sound design the production could have avoided the problem altogether.

In its first production of the year, the Lyric Opera proved that it has a talented and engaging cast with the charisma and charm needed to bring a script to life. "Company" has a mix of songs that toe the line between cute coordination and annoying repetitiveness, but if the mark of a great musical is whether or not the songs will be stuck in the audiences' heads for weeks afterwards, then "Company" is a resounding success.

Related links:

2 is a couple, 3 is 'Company' in latest Lyric Opera production

ASU MainStage drops the boys to the curb, adding seven women playwrights for the 2015-16 theater season


Reach the reporter at skylar.mason@asu.edu or follow @skylarmason42 on Twitter.

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