Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
THE Crucible is celebrating its 40th birthday in style with a grand revival of the multi-award-winning musical, Company, the music and lyrics written forty years ago by the great Stephen Sondheim.
Ridiculously wide shirt collars, flared trousers and clothes displaying violent clashes of improbable patterns place us firmly in 1970, a time when to be unmarried at the advanced age of 35 was not at all the norm.
Robert’s bachelor pad apartment spans the Crucible’s mighty stage, the Manhattan skyline all aglow beyond the balcony.
Around the edge of the stage, a chequer-work of underlit squares wait to be danced and sung upon, and to flash out in multi-coloured disco brilliance; hidden away is an invisible band of ten fine musicians.
Company is often accused of having no plot, no real storyline, of ‘rambling on a bit’. It’s true the ideas tend to circle around, constantly attempting to pinpoint what love and marriage really mean, but when a cast delivers a sparkling entertainment, lively, bright, funny, thoughtful, and with respectable American accents, maybe that doesn’t matter so much.
The crucial central pivot is unmarried Bobby.
Around him, all the friends who keep him company revolve - that’s five couples and three girlfriends.
Daniel Evans’ fine performance certainly deserves the great approval and applause it receives. Though too much of a Mr Nice Guy, perhaps, to be a credible serial philanderer, his Bobby, with his relaxed charm and winning smile, is thoroughly engaging, and full of intense passion, at its peak as he pours out his heart (- with the odd hint of Gene Pitney) into Being Alive.
Other songs raise odd rafters, too, like (Olivier winner) Samantha Spiro’s breathless, whirlwind performance of Getting Married Today, Lucy Montgomery’s comic Barcelona, and (Bafta winner) Francesca Annis’ dark, growling delivery of Ladies Who Lunch.
Heaps of humour strew the way as our five quirky couples and three lively girlfriends all turn up (several times) on Bobby’s 35th birthday, overwhelming him with demands that he get married and settle down.
As, alongside Bobby, we contemplate and laugh a lot at the complicated, bewildering love/hate interactions of each different couple, we understand his dilemma, a dilemma not just for singletons of the 1970s.
The love and companionship, the togetherness these couples share is attractive to Bobby, enviable even, but, hang on, what about all the ridiculous arguing and misunderstanding, the endless frustrations and restrictions on freedom? Is such commitment a good idea or not? What should he do?
There’s plenty of fun to share with this Company, which runs right through until January 7.
* Eileen Caiger Gray
DONCASTER CHORAL SOCIETY
Priory Methodist Church
THE first concert of the season featured Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man, A Mass for Peace, one of the most popular pieces of modern music.
The audience had plenty to enthuse about, as the Society, under the direction of Simon Lindley, produced singing of power, vigour and memorability.
As a richly eclectic mass, the work uses the L’Homme Armé tune and, powerfully, the Last Post along with four liturgical movements and texts from Kipling, Dryden, Mallory and Tennyson, selected by Guy Wilson, whose own Now The Guns Have Stopped was movingly sung by contralto Lucy Appleyard, one of six soloists, all of whom made their distinctive contributions – the others were treble Cameron Stanley, Claire Strafford, Philip Steel and Paul Tidd with Noah Nazir in the role of Muezzin.
The chorus had the most to do and clearly relished the task. This was inspirational; the singers were finely supported by organist David Houlder and the National Festival Orchestra producing truly remarkable colour and brilliance.
Elsewhere, Quilter’s rousing Non Nobis Domine; the shapely “Albinoni” Adagio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Trumpets by Jamie O’Brien and Gordon Truman and Vaughan Williams’ Psalm 100 proved hugely appealing. Mr Houlder played Elgar’s Imperial March and Nimrod with flair along with Elgar’s With Proud Thanksgiving – a devoted performance by the choir and its impressive orchestra.