Richey Suncoast Theatre opened its 2013-14 season Thursday with a thoroughly delightful rendition of composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim's engaging musical Company, a series of vignettes centered on 35-year-old bachelor Bobby (Rob Tilley), whose friends are determined to get him married — though no one is exactly sure why, most of all Bobby himself.
It's a show for grown-ups, who will best appreciate the subject matter as well as director Peter Nason's really terrific 14-member cast that includes many of Tampa Bay's top-flight performers.
Indeed, getting to hear Tilley's Bobby sing the poignant Someone is Waiting, the tentative Marry Me a Little and the powerful Being Alive is a whole evening's enjoyment by itself. Add to that great physical humor by Megan Gillespie and Keith Surplus as pot-smoking pals Jenny and David, the rapid-fire singing of Jillian Rossi as the reluctant bride Amy in Getting Married Today, and the powerful belting by Kathryn Comiciotto Tilley as the cynical lush Joanne in The Ladies Who Lunch — and it's, well, almost more than a theater patron could hope for in one sitting.
But wait, as they shout on late-night TV, there's more — nine more splendid performers in touching or funny scenes and doing a fine job with choreographer Linda Hougland's smooth moves.
Company has some of Sondheim's best and most introspective and incisive songs, with his trademark romantic starts that take sudden twists that are so revealing and true that they hurt. "Are you ever sorry you got married?" Bobby asks his alcoholic friend Harry (George Brazier), who's married to ever-hungry Sarah (Jennifer Vilardi). By all appearances, Harry and Sarah do nothing but battle, physically and verbally, and Brazier and Vilardi do it to a turn.
Even so, Harry and the rest of his guy friends can't give Bobby a clear-cut answer. They're Sorry-Grateful — sorry that they're not carefree singles (like Bobby), grateful that they're not lonely singles (again, like Bobby) — and that's the best they can say for it all.
Susan and Peter (Tracie Callahan and Jim Wanker) are truly flummoxed by the whole idea of marriage — or even the man-woman thing, which gives Callahan and Wanker a chance to show off their comedic chops.
Paul (a sweetly appealing Patrick Moran) is bewildered by Amy's hesitation to marry. And the sophisticates Joanne and Larry (Chip Wichmanowski) are the realists of the bunch.
Bobby is puzzled by the very idea of being in a twosome. Flight attendant April (perky Elizabeth S. Philips) is fine for a tumble, but forever? Nah. Small-town girl Kathy (lovely Allison Iskowitz) knows herself better than any of the others, to Bobby's consternation. And Marta (down-to-earth Addie Mentry) knows she loves New York City, with or without men.
Designer Marie Skelton's spare sets allow lightning-quick scene changes, and light board operator Abby Brazier makes sure Skelton's light design works on cue, so the attention can be focused where it should be — on the players. Music director Steven Schildbach keeps his six-piece combo's tempo just right (though the bongos during Joanne's number could be toned down so we don't miss a luscious word). And Dandy Blethroad's costumes not only anchor the time in the late 1960s but also, by careful use of color, help us keep the characters paired off correctly from the start.
Company won six Tony Awards in 1970 — including for music, lyrics and book — and another years later for Best Revival of a Musical. The Richey Suncoast troupe has mounted a production deserving of even more accolades, a fine start to a very promising season.