What with the endless 8oth birthday celebrations for Stephen Sondheim, revivals of his shows now seem almost as common as gold stars for The King’s Speech with more to come (celebrations to mark Mr Sondheim’s 81st birthday commence on 22 March).
The Whingers quite like Company (with a big C, not each others’ company) because it’s sharp, witty and tuneful. But having seen the Union Theatre’s excellent, but presumably only minor, revival less than two years ago we weren’t sure we were quite ready for another.
But then if we didn’t go it would always be gnawing away at us: how was “The Ladies Who Lunch”?
We won’t concern you with the plot because a) there isn’t much of one and b) we went through all that last time and c) we’re no strangers to indolence.
What we will bother you with though is that Joe Fredericks‘ production has updated things from the seventies to the present day complete with new-fangled devices such as iphones, a powerbook and a snatch of music from someone called Rihanna (who won something at the Brit awards recently along with some other people of whom we had never heard. Don’t worry, we didn’t find our groove; she’s name-checked), but what really tipped us of was a helpful note in the programme explaining the setting “Bobby’s apartment in present-day New York”. Except, it seems Bobby’s bedroom which looked very early nineties to us what with its black ash bed and once-black duvet cover and all. It might be interesting to see designer Paul Wills‘ bedroom.
Anyway, that apart, it’s all rather good.
In fact it’s so well staged that even sitting at one side of the thrust barely troubled us an iota and when did we ever say that? Things are kept moving to include all three sides of audience so we weren’t left sulking like neglected kiddies.
Sam Spencer-Lane‘s choreographic endeavours follow suit especially in the peppy dance number “Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You?”. Mr Spencer-Lane also knows how to work a room.
The cast bring out the best from George Furth‘s episodic book making it more amusing than we remembered. Rather than providing longeurs between the excellent songs the vignettes of marital issues are quite absorbingly played.
There are plenty of very likeable performances so it seems churlish to single people out. But we will.
We were particularly taken with Matthew White and Leigh McDonald‘s karate couple, Steven Serlin and Julia J. Nagle‘s dope smoking partnership, Katie Brayben‘s charmingly dim flight attendant April and Cassidy Janson‘s Amy. Even Rupert Young eventually managed to inject a degree of charm into the normally charmless and unlikeable blank canvas of the central character Bobby.
Phil rather oddly related to the 35 year old Bobby’s dilemma despite representing a period of his life lost to the mists of time. Even odder, since the Whingers normally eschew emotion, he admitted to feeling “a little moist” at the end and not just because Andrew had been slopping his coffee around (this was a matinée, you understand: the Whingers were off to “a do” that evening and rather unusually decided to pace themselves).
Even Andrew who can’t abide Bobby and usually sits through the show with a face like a wet weekend quite enjoyed himself. A little more and we would have been able to report that Misery loved Company. Almost.