“Company” has been one of Jim Crisp’s “very favorite musicals” since it opened in 1970 —back in his college days at Western Illinois University.
Crisp is a founder and artistic director of Theatre Macon, which is putting the groundbreaking musical on stage for the Valentine’s Day season. Crisp called it a masterful examination of relationships and marriage — and he’s not alone in favoring it: “Company” garnered 14 Tony Award nominations and took six.
“Company’s” music and lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim and the book is by George Furth.
Sondheim created noted works like “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “A Little Night Music,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Into the Woods.”
“He was coming into his own as an artist and poet with ‘Company,’ ” Crisp said. “It’s a grand celebration of love and marriage, but not through the rose lens Hollywood used. It’s much more realistic, gritty and acknowledges the difficulties. But Sondheim concluded that with its flaws, marriage is a marvelous institution and relationships are worth the sacrifice and work required. ‘Company’ has the message that being alive is being in love and being in love involves risks worth taking.”
And Crisp said the musical does it with surprising humor and charm.
But for its director and actors, there are challenges.
“When it premiered, ‘Company’ was remarkably groundbreaking,” Crisp said. “It wasn’t just it approached adult themes in relationships realistically but it also broke ground in how it told the story. ‘Company’ is a collection of vignettes presenting the story without regard to their actual order in time. Also, a lot of scenery is stripped away. Then there’s the music and choreography. Sondheim didn’t make it easy. The show is difficult and unique but we have the actors to pull it off beautifully. I’m very proud.”
Crisp said good performances in a Sondheim musical “made” many an actor’s career. He said a show-stopping dance from the original production will be included in Macon and performed by Abigail Evans. He said the show’s complex central character, Bobby — a bachelor with commitment issues — is played by Tim Hinojosa.
As a favorite, though challenging production, Crisp said he has directed it only one other time at Theatre Macon.
“We had a great cast 16 years ago but this time I made some very different choices in mounting ‘Company,’ ” he said. “I think they enhance it and make it an all the more powerful telling of the story. It’s a tremendous opportunity for people to see a play not many choose to do and one that, on the side of the actors can be difficult but rewarding, and on the side of the audience is funny, engaging, highly entertaining and very, very rewarding.”
Contact Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.
Where: Theatre Macon, 438 Cherry St.
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 9-10 and 16-17; 2:30 p.m. Feb. 11, 18; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15
Information: 478-746-9485, www.theatremacon.com