Withering Glance: One evening in good 'Company'

  • Article by: RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 10, 2012 - 4:49 PM

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

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Sara Ochs (Kathy) and Dieter Bierbrauer (Bobby) in Theater Latt´┐Ż Da's "Company."

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

CP: So we're standing around before seeing "Company," me for the first time, you for the ninth, and I was made to feel about 1 inch tall.

RN: It's a relief to know that you are at least aware of this landmark 1970 Stephen Sondheim musical.

CP: The mortification arose when you and a couple of friends at the Ordway exclaimed in unison, "You have NEVER seen this show?!"

RN: Well, it did make me wonder if you are, in fact, heterosexual.

CP: After which you guys wandered off to argue the fine points of the original 1970 production vs. the Broadway revivals of 1995 and 2006.

RN: I was reminded of my deep affection of LaChanze's propulsive tear through "Another Hundred People" from the 1995 cast recording, although I hesitate to fly my Sondheim Freak Flag in your presence. What did you think of the show?

CP: It was terrific. Sharp, tuneful, sarcastic, neurotic, funny, nuanced. "Cute, original, odd." Shall I go on?

RN: Yes, please. I'm delighted to learn that you've been watching YouTube videos of original cast member Elaine Stritch knocking her theme song, "The Ladies Who Lunch," to the back of the balcony.

CP: That video of Stritch and Sondheim, both smoking, in the recording studio is a dark-comedy classic. I knew of that song, but it wasn't till I heard Jody Briskey sing it in Theater Latté Da's production that I realized it was as much a putdown as a tribute to that class of wealthy matrons who are "too busy to know that they're fools." Ouch.

RN: Sondheim gets off some arch rhymes, including "Brilliant zinger" with "vodka stinger," although my favorite is the droll activities list for bored Upper East Side socialites: "Another long, exhausting day, another thousand dollars. A matinee, a Pinter play, perhaps a piece of Mahler's." Briskey, costumed to kill in purple, nailed it.

CP: His rhymes are sublime. I love Bobby, the single guy at the center of the show, surrounded by all those New York City couples in various states of marital bliss or discord. He embodies both the pros and cons of the single life.

RN: Dieter Bierbrauer's appealing characterization made it evident why Bobby was so attractive to the married people in his life. I thought director Peter Rothstein did a bang-up job of making a 1970s time capsule feel sort of contemporary.

CP: He and choreographer Matthew Michael Ferrell kept that tip-top cast of singer/actors in perpetual motion. One oddly dated aspect is how Bobby's dates are referred to by him and other cast members.

RN: Yes, book writer George Furth -- that's playwright in musical-speak -- was unfamiliar with feminism. Speaking of Rothstein, I'd love to see what he would do with Sondheim's monumental "Follies."

CP: Another one I've never seen. Don't say a word.

E-mail: witheringglance@startribune.com Follow on Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib

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