Arts & Entertainment

Keeping ‘Company’ With the Good Shepherds Players

By Mark Dreisonstok

The trio of April (Allison Meyer), Kathy (Tricia Tyrell), and Marta (Katie Weigl Strain) performing “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.” (Photo Courtesy Good Shepherds Players)

“Company” is an early 1970s musical revolving around a bachelor whose friends are all married and who is interested in and resistant to marriage all at once. Coming between “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” on one spectrum and “Into the Woods” on another, Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” broke new ground in examining the complexities of contemporary relationships in vignettes, although the unconventional subject matter and the non-linear technique are placed “Side by Side” (to quote one of the song titles) with more traditional Broadway elements.

The show is being revived locally in a surprising venue: Church of the Good Shepherd in Burke, Virginia. The Good Shepherd Players were founded in 1980 as a self-styled “outreach ministry” of the church using the yearly production of a musical to foster relationships with the community and to draw interest to the church and its mission. They have now expanded beyond one musical per year. Having produced such musicals as “The Music Man” and “Oliver” in the past, they look forward to “Titanic: The Musical” for the spring.

Good Shepherd Players Publicity Manager Gregory LeNave explains to Falls Church News-Press the unusual current choice of “Company” as this season’s production: “In early 2020, the Good Shepherd Players decided to expand their annual offerings by adding a musical in the fall to complement their big spring musical. The Board [which overseas the Players] selected “Company” as the first fall musical, scheduled for November 2020. Rehearsals started early that fall on Zoom, but of course the pandemic forced a postponement. ‘Company’ had certain advantages as this first offering: a smaller cast, a simple set, and a focus on character work that, as it turns out, could be done virtually. In addition, ‘Company’ is a contemporary classic, a show that revolutionized musical theatre when it debuted fifty years ago. The Board felt it would be an exciting way to begin the Players’ expansion!”

Good Shepherds Players provides excellent “company” in this production which is minimalist in terms of props and set (a skyline of New York City, with mood changes indicated by color-changing spotlights). This minimalist approach is set off by a full-sounding orchestra of nine musicians superbly conducted by Steve McBride.

A memorable moment showing the traditional Broadway side of “Company” features bachelor Robert’s three girlfriends all of whom he is thinking of proposing to performing as the talented trio of April (Allison Meyer), Kathy (Tricia Tyrell), and Marta (Katie Weigl Strain) performing “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.” April is a flighty flight attendant, Kathy an idealized vision of a future wife, and Marta a fun-loving girl, all representing different personalities and possible futures for Robert as a husband.

Another traditional Broadway-style number in terms of tunefulness and choreography is when Robert (the fine voice of Chris Gray), a couple he knows, and eventually the whole cast sing “Side by Side/What Would We Do WithoutYou?” Mr. Gray also performs a moving “Being Alive,” which has become one of the well-known staples of the Sondheim songbook.

A harsher tone to the show is evidenced by Margaret McGarry as Joanne, performing with great style and character the cynical “Ladies Who Lunch.” Another non-typical element of a Broadway musical is the resolution of the play being left up to the audience’s own conjecture. In addition to providing very good voices, the cast also delivers the poignant lines of the play well, such as “I’m afraid to get married and you’re afraid not to” and “you need to marry somebody, not just some body.”

The production contains adult language and themes, and thus parental discretion is advised.

Tickets are $15. for adults and $10. for students. The play runs a little more than two hours from November 12 – 14, 2021, at Church of the Good Shepherd in Burke.