Show has wit, wisdom and 70s wigs

Company - Daniel Evans is centre of attention as Bobby.. Credit Ellie Kurttz
Company - Daniel Evans is centre of attention as Bobby.. Credit Ellie Kurttz

PROMINENT in the acting CV of Daniel Evans are Olivier award-winning performances in Stephen Sondheim musicals Merrily We Roll Along and Sunday in the Park with George which also earned a Tony nomination on Broadway.

Sheffield Theatres audiences have hitherto only witnessed the artistic director performing in Shakespeare and contemporary drama and so seeing him doing the big numbers in another Sondheim musical, all nimble-footed and sweet-voiced, may come as something of a revelation.

Added to that is the startling change in appearance under a wig that gives him the look of someone out of a Martin Scorsese movie.

But then we are in Seventies New York. Evans is Robert, better known as Bobbie, a man about town celebrating his 35th birthday in the company of friends who all think it’s about time he committed to a relationship and got married – like they all have. In different ways the five couples proceed to demonstrate that being spliced is a matter of calculating the benefits against the deficits. What’s a full-blooded and fancy-free thirtysomething supposed to make of that?

As the title suggests it’s an ensemble show and director Jonathan Munby has assembled a formidable company to dance around the pivotal role of Robert. Sondheim is tricky stuff musically but there is barely a false note.

This is not your boy meets girl linear-plotted musical but a series of overlapping scenes and jumps backwards and forwards in time and in and out of reality.

Nevertheless you get your big numbers like the high-kicking, hat-waving Side By Side By Side, splendidly choreographed by Lynne Page, and some great comic pieces like Getting Married Today with Samantha Spiro’s rapid-fire tongue-twisting a delight, and Barcelona in which Lucy Montgomery flexes her comic chops. Then there’s the show stopper, Ladies Who Lunch, deliciously delivered by Francesca Annis’s acerbic drunk Joanne,

Part of the fun is the setting. Familiar with the Crucible stage from many Michael Grandage productions, designer Christopher Oram has come up with a two-tier loft apartment set complete with mobile leather love couch along with a wardrobe of delightfully ghastly authentic Seventies costumes.

Company is a musical full of wit and wisdom (remarkably perceptive considering that, apparently, Sondheim wrote it before experiencing a deep and meaningful relationship of his own) about such things as love and loneliness. Though there’s something apt about these subjects at Christmastime, it should be pointed out that this not a festive family musical or indeed a winter warmer but it is certainly a tonic.