REVIEW: Company, Crucible

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MEET Robert – Bobby to his friends. New York chap about town with girls on tap and a social life hitched blokes would divorce for.

But hang on, it’s his 35th birthday and his married chums are suggesting it is time he settled down.

So begins a bright, laugh-strewn journey powered by the songs of Stephen Sondheim and Simon Hale’s orchestra. Played by jack of all trades artistic director Daniel Evans, Bobby warms to the idea of marriage – “it’s not like I’m avoiding marriage, it’s avoiding me” – only to find on closer inspection it’s not quite what it’s cracked up to be.

George Furth’s grass is always greener 1970 tale warms a winter evening on several levels, from Christopher Oram’s NYC authentic apartment set and disco floor (ease off the cough-inducing haze, maybe) to Lynne Page’s neat and uplifting cheoreography, excelling in the busy Side By Side By Side couples routine, all under Jonathan Munby’s slick direction.

While Evans is engaging, playful, even a tad little boy lost in his likeable delivery of a savvy but baffled Bobby, there are several key performances from those who orbit his world.

Amy, played with ditzy delight by ball of energy Samantha Spiro, is an hilarious pleasure to watch, while Evans and Anna-Jane Casey (Jenny) tender arguably the strongest vocal shifts alongside Claire Price.

An award winner for her role beside Evans in The Pride, she wins more praise as Sarah, the karate-chopping wife of covert bourbon chugger Harry (Damian Humbley). And you’d never guess Company was age-defying Franscesca Anna’s first musical; her boozy, much married Joanne is deftly balanced by returning Ian Gelder’s veteran fun-lover Larry.

Kelly Price, Rosalie Craig and Lucy Montgomery contrast well as the ladies vying for Bobby’s affections – or simply something recreational – with their own agendas.

Okay, so as the Crucible’s Christmas musical offering Company isn’t exactly a festive bonanza (thankfully), but as a feelgood, nostalgic, smile-raising, tune-laden story about friendships, love and relationships, it ticks every box.

In these ‘modern’ times of euro failures and recession, finally, one set of Company results worth shouting about. Runs until January 7.