Fox Arts Center starts 2017 season in good ‘Company’

“Company” tells the tale of Robert, an unmarried 35 year old in New York City who is grappling with his bachelorhood on his birthday. His tale of woe is told in vignettes populated with his coupled friends, in various stages of love and divorce, as Robert, or Bobbie to his friends, slowly becomes desperate for the emotional connection society tells him is the destiny of all citizens

AURORA | Sometimes the ceiling of a production isn’t the cast, the director, the set or the crew. It’s the source material.

Fox Theater’s production of “Company,” the classic Stephen Sondheim musical that premiered almost 50 years ago, is a perfect example of this conundrum. What to make of a show that is near perfect in every regard except the actual script itself?

“Company” tells the tale of Robert, an unmarried 35 year old in New York City who is grappling with his bachelorhood on his birthday. His tale of woe is told in vignettes populated with his coupled friends, in various stages of love and divorce, as Robert, or Bobbie to his friends, slowly becomes desperate for the emotional connection society tells him is the destiny of all citizens.

The eschewing of a linear plot for a story told in unconnected scenes was considered experimental in 1970. But viewed through a modern lens, the story isn’t so much groundbreaking as it is reaffirming society’s notion that happiness comes only when coupled to a life partner. It drags on in the second half of the show as the point that “maybe I need to be with someone to be happy” gets hammered into the audience’s collective heads.

So, with all that being said, why does this show with a subpar story get four stars? Because of just how wonderful the talented cast Fox has assembled nails some of the more memorable numbers in modern musical theater. The story might be suspect but there is no doubt that “Company” is full of songs that push this show well beyond the stale plot.

The cast is full of singers whose vocal skills are equaled by their acting and comedy chops. Jeremy Rill, as Robert, nails the mix of aloofness and emotional despair that plagues his character throughout the show and matches it with a voice that deserves to be the center of attention. Heather Lacy’s Joanne is the jaded embodiment of New York and she makes her character stand out even on the crowded stage. Add to that her powerful voice and it’s easy to see why she has the tendency to be the center of attention in this show.

One of the best numbers of the show is “Getting Married Today,” the fast-paced lamentations of Amy as she panics before finally wedding her longtime partner. Rebekah Ortiz is a revelation as Amy and her panicked freak out is one of the highlights of this show. If she doesn’t elicit a laugh out of you, it might be time to seek professional help.

When a show has been around for almost five decades, with many of those years spent on Broadway, there’s not a lot of new ground to find for modern productions to tread. They face the challenge of living up to the various iterations of the show audiences have experienced before taking their seats.

Director Kelly Van Oosbree and her cast of 14 have produced a show that runs like a well-oiled machine in the best sense of the term. The show flows from one scene to the next effortlessly with a level of choreography and blocking that speaks to the effort that went into this show.

Fox’s “Company” shows what a talented cast and crew are capable of achieving even when they’re limited by an uninteresting plot.