19 December 2008


Sheffield Telegraph, 12 December 2008
By Bernard Lee

COMPANY, generally regarded as the musical that began the Stephen Sondheim cult, gets a couple of staged performances from Sheffield University music students at the Montgomery Theatre next week. The performers' status is not a deterrent, even without the show's director Freda Chapple of the university's Institute for Lifelong Learning, saying: "These youngsters; they're marvellous."

She has immense talent at her disposal for the Department of Music-generated production.

It was prompted by French music and Messiaen expert Nigel Simeone who also has a passion for American musical theatre and teaches a module on it in the department.

Self-confessed Sondheim addict Freda says: "Nigel wanted to do an American musical because they have a really good crop of singers in the department at the moment. He suggested Company – he's so knowledgeable on Sondheim, and asked me to direct it.

"It certainly fits them. They're having to act up a bit because they're a little too young for the characters but these youngsters are up for anything. They're wonderful and it's been enormous fun."

A concept musical without a delineated plot-line, the piece is a series of short scenes revolving round 35-year-old bachelor Robert, also referred to as Bobby, who has three girlfriends and five married friends and their spouses with various issues between them who gather in a New York appartment to celebrate his birthday.

The work's origins were 11 one-act plays by George Furth linked by a single character. He showed them to Broadway impressario Hal Prince and both agreed that a musical was lurking within them. Furth duly wrote the book and Company was premiered in 1970.