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Theatre Review (Singapore): Company by Stephen Sondheim

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Dream Academy/Dream World Productions’ latest offering is a Stephen Sondheim musical Company, which is playing at the Drama Centre, from 1st to 17th of November 2012.

Directed by Hossan Leong, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by George Furth, Company is about 35 year old Bobby (Peter Ong) who’s pretty much a womanizing commitment-phobe. Through his interaction with three girlfriends, April (Seong Hui Xuan), Marta (Mina Ellen Kaye) and Kathy (Glory Ngim) along with five other couple friends who undergo relationship ups and downs themselves, Bobby has to decide if being a long term bachelor is what he really wants.

Company is funny, but don’t expect obvious jokes. The humour here is subtle and sophisticated, and much of the wit is found in the lyrics of the songs that so suitably capture the essence of marriage, relationships, and life. Also, don’t expect saccharine sweet endings to the relationships explored in this musical, for Company lays it all out honestly – the good, the bad, and the ugly about being married.

As for the singing, one word comes to mind to describe the singing here – astonishing! The singing from the entire cast is nothing short of remarkable. Many of the performers are fresh to the industry but have already made a mark in musical theatre. One such actress is Candice de Rozario who blew audiences away in Spring Awakening and Lao Jiu with her powerful vocals. Here, in Company, de Rozario’s crystal clear voice lends itself effortlessly to an operatic song, which she sings in perfect pitch.

Also new to the Singapore scene, Mina Ellen Kaye gives a powerful performance with her rendition of “Another Hundred People”. Kaye‘s big voice suits this song with wordy lyrics very well, as her diction and enunciation stay clear throughout the entire song.

Another standout vocalist is Petrina Kow who has the daunting task of singing lengthy lyrics in one breath – and she nails it successfully each and every time. And of course leading man Peter Ong, Malaysian musical theatre stalwart, has smooth vocals that glide from note to note, even with a dramatic key change. Having performed in a plethora of musicals and operas, Ong has no trouble letting his vocals carry the story of Company via the lyrics he so competently sings.

However, Tan Kheng Hua, who has to belt it out in one song, doesn’t quite succeed as much, and, in fact, Tan’s voice sounded a little bit strained when attempting the higher notes. Tan’s character, though, is in a drunken mode when she sings that song, so whilst the strain might be unintentional, in a way it does suit the condition of her character.

Given its static set, Hossan Leong deftly directs the cast to fully utilize the given space. At one point, the living room wall is pulled down by Bobby to reveal a hidden bed to April. The audience “aah“-ed in surprise as well.

Company is extremely entertaining, and Leong and the cast certainly prove they can give Singapore audiences a musical that is every bit as good as any Broadway or West End show. It’s about time we give props and support to local talent, especially to a company that’s so bold to put a Sondheim musical on stage – and pull it off efficaciously!

About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, curent freelance writer and filmmaker.
  • Hossan

    Thank you! This means a lot to me!