In an effort to present the best of American musical theater, is it possible to do so without the lavish sets and large orchestras that audiences have come to expect? The answer is a resounding “yes.”
For 12 years, the San Francisco Playhouse (now operating in a delightful 199-seat theater near Union Square) has presented intimate – and highly acclaimed – productions, including “Into the Woods,” “Promises, Promises,” “Camelot” and “My Fair Lady.” This week, it opens Stephen Sondheim’s trailblazing, 1970 Tony Award-winning musical comedy “Company,” the last show of its 2014-15 season.
“For our production, the orchestra will be replaced by two grand pianos set onstage,” says director and Playhouse co-founder Susi Damilano, who is at the helm of the show, along with musical director Dave Dobrusky and choreographer Kimberly Richards.
“We will not be paring it down in any other way, and I don’t think the musical will feel any smaller on our stage. The set will be an open space with all the actors remaining onstage on different levels. The way we envision it should do justice to the magnificent Sondheim score containing many of his best-known songs,” says Damilano.
The Playhouse production is making some changes, however. Calling “Company” a “timeless piece” with issues that are contemporary and still relevant, Damilano has changed the time period from the 1970s to today.
The musical begins (and ends) with bachelor Robert’s 35th birthday party in Manhattan. Robert has three girlfriends but is unable to commit to a steady relationship. Over the course of the evening, he is forced to consider all the options (as he watches his friends play out every possible example of cohabitation) and question his own adamant retention of bachelorhood.
Keith Pinto plays Robert, and Teresa Attridge, Velina Brown, Morgan Dayley, Michelle Drexler, Ryan Drummond, Richard Frederick, John Paul Gonzalez, Monique Hafen, Stephanie Prentice, Chris Reber, Abby Sammons, Nicole Weber and Michael Scott Wells round out the cast.
“Company” enjoyed several revivals on Broadway, the most recent with Neal Patrick Harris in 2011. Based on one-act plays by George Furth (who wrote the book) and directed by the legendary Harold Prince, it was among the first musicals to deal with adult themes in a modern, sophisticated manner.
IF YOU GO
Presented by San Francisco Playhouse
Where: 450 Post St., S.F.
When: Most Tuesdays-Sundays, closes Sept. 12
Tickets: $20 to $120
Contact: (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org