Review: Company by Company of Ten at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans

The Company of Ten's production of Company by Stephen Sondheim at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans

The Company of Ten's production of Company by Stephen Sondheim at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Archant

Madeleine Burton reviews the Company of Ten’s production of Stephen Sondheim musical Company at the Abbey Theatre.

To say it is rare for the Company of Ten to put on a musical is an understatement.

The last time it happened was in 1995 when the St Albans drama company staged Little Shop of Horrors, a show so good that I remember it to this day.

Twenty-two years later, they settled on a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company to showcase the combined musical and drama talents of their members.

And while it did not have the novelty factor of the development of the plant Audrey II, a challenge to which the Company of Ten stage crew rose superbly in 1995, it showed that when it comes to musicals, the drama group can hold its own with the best.

Company, performed at the Abbey Theatre last week, centres on Robert, a bachelor of long standing, and the married couples with whom he is friends.

They clearly adore him and want to see him married off – he, in his turn, seems to be looking for a bride-to-be who is an amalgam of his female friends.

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Instead he has three girlfriends, none of whom are really right for him, and his musings about bachelorhood versus the married state are played out against what he gleans about the married life of the five couples.

Director Tim Hoyle clearly loves the musical and that shines through the staging and his decision to set it in the present day, even though it was first performed in 1970.

Robert is at the heart of everything and Peter Bryans was excellent in the role.

Not only has he a first-class singing voice but his relaxed and slightly quizzical appearance throughout was spot on.

All the couples were well cast and tackled their roles with wit and enthusiasm.

I particularly liked Beccy Baird and Julian Wathen as Amy and Paul.

Beccy’s performance, particularly in the song Getting Married Today, was one of the high spots of the production as she dithered over whether she really wanted to wed the loveable Paul.

And the Company of Ten showed it has a real singing star in Eleanor McConnell, who played Susan. Her voice soared in the songs she performed.

Special mention should go to Katy Jane Meehan as April, who unleashed her inner Marilyn Monroe to play the ditziest of Robert’s girlfriends.

The show was performed with a live orchestra above the stage under the musical directorship of Clive Swan.

Performing a musical was an ambitious step by the Company of Ten but Company was well worth the 22-year wait. Let’s hope it won’t be so long next time.