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Wednesday, February 8,2012

Risky business

Despite a few star players, Holt-Dimondale's ‘Company’ doesn't work

by UTE VON DER HEYDEN

Here’s the one-paragraph review: In the hands of the Holt/Dimondale Community Players, Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical classic “Company” is lifeless, listless and long. Save your money. Stay home. 

Why would that be when you’re dealing with the work of a dominant artistic force like Sondheim and a potentially exciting (if somewhat dated) show like “Company?” And also, how can that be when you have some of the biggest and best names in community theater in the cast?  

One first has to look to director Kelly Stuible. She does not have a cohesive grip on how she wanted to interpret the show, neither its spirited and funny aspects nor its darker undertones. If she does, her vision does not get communicated — definitely not to the audience.

This leaves the actors meandering both emotionally and physically, giving the production an overall stiff and static feel.

(It could not have helped the show’s energy level that on opening night there were only a disheartening 20 people in the cold, cavernous Holt Junior High School auditorium.)

On the practical side, Stuible simply does not have enough good voices (a couple of them could make a person literally shudder) to handle “Company’s” gorgeous lyrics and musical complexity. And although she does have the above-mentioned talent and star power in people like Chad DeKatch, Joe Quick and Doak Bloss, in a non-professional cast of 14 there are going to be folks who can’t act. 

Luckily, there are exceptions to this overall assessment. First and foremost, there is the small but spot-on orchestra under the direction of pianist Bryan Guarnuccio, effectively placed upstage center. All excellent musicians, they are strong, tight and well-rehearsed. One can only imagine the added disaster if this hadn’t been the case.   

In addition, two women in the cast stand out, Nicole Martin and Amanda D. Knowlton.

Martin combines a strong singing voice with natural acting ability to make the panicky, neurotic Amy both believable and theatrical in her rendition of “Not Getting Married Today.”

Knowlton, as ditzy stewardess April, is a natural comedienne. She gives the curtain speech in the character of April and, if you pay attention to curtain speeches, you get an early hint of how funny this woman can be. Her duet with DeKatch (“Barcelona”) also proves she can sing. 

Then there is DeKatch as perennial bachelor Bobby, the central protagonist who links the show’s disconnected vignettes. The only caveat to his being an exception is that it takes him too long to get there. DeKatch can act, he can sing, he has appealing stage presence, but on opening night he waited until the closing number to shine.

But then shine he did in the magnificent “Being Alive,” tenderly wrapping up the central theme of the show and making the audience believe in Bobby’s new willingness to have a real love relationship and not just to keep “Company.”

´Company´

Holt-Dimondale Community Players

Through Feb. 11

Holt Junior High School,

1784 Aurelius Road, Holt

7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturdays

$12; $8 students and seniors

(517) 694-3411

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