A new theater season is upon us, and the Altoona Community Theatre is opening it with a laugh-infused look at life and love.
The Mishler Theatre in Altoona will present four performances of Steven Sondheim's acclaimed musical "Company," at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, 19 and 2 p.m. Sept. 20.
"I think this is going to be a nice change of pace for our audience," said ACT Operations Manager Steve Helsel, regarding the production. "It's more of a vignette-oriented show than a story with a plot. Sondheim's also one of my favorite composers - he writes very intelligent music and lyrics."
Mirror photo by Teri Enciso
Larry (Bryce Cossitor) moves and grooves on the dance floor with a yellow-clad cutie (Amber McDonald) while his bored and unfulfilled wife Joanne (Catherine Anastasi) makes a pass at their young bachelor friend Robert (Mike McClure) in ACT’s production of “Company.”
"Company" explores the soul-searching of a confirmed bachelor living in New York City who simultaneously dates multiple women and is incapable of committing to a long-term relationship. He celebrates his 35th birthday with five married, once-married and soon-to-be married couples, all the while observing the dynamics of their relationships.
"This (production) will also appeal to the young professional audience, because it deals with contemporary issues and relationships. Even though it was written in the '70s, the way it plays out is very contemporary," Helsel said.
The show's director, Richard Vanevenhoven, 52, of Hollidaysburg, said "Company" was considered a landmark production when it opened in 1970 because it was the first of what would become known as the "concept musical."
If you go
Where: Mishler Theatre, Altoona
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19 and 20 and 2 p.m. Sept. 21
Admission: Tickets are on sale at the Mishler Box Office; all seats reserved at $18 plus processing fee. Box Office hours are noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and one hour prior to curtain on performance days. For reservations, call the Mishler 944-9434.
More information: Go to www.altoona communitytheatre.com.
"Most people are more familiar with the Rodgers-and-Hammerstein-style musical," he said. "This is different in that much of the action takes place in the head of the lead character - where Rodgers and Hammerstein would use a song to move the plot along. Sondheim actually brings in characters that may not be in that exact scene, but they come in and perform a song which furthers the message."
"Company" marks Vanevenhoven's return to ACT after a 16-year hiatus, his last directorial effort being "South Pacific" in 1986 and performing in "Gypsy," "Kismet," "Chicago" and "Annie" around that time.
"There's a lot of very moving, poignant parts - and some that are just downright hilarious," he said of "Company," adding theatergoers should be advised that the show contains some adult language and sexual situations intended only for mature audiences.
Also working on the production are Brett Keith of Tyrone as music director and Molly Riva of Altoona as choreographer. Keith most recently helmed the music of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and has had featured roles in "Blood Brothers," "She Loves Me" and "Meet Me in St. Louis." Riva has danced and sung in such ACT shows as "Smokey Joe's Cafe," "Blood Brothers" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie."
Mike McClure, 29, of Hollidaysburg is in the lead role as Robert, whom he described as "a guy who's very comfortable in his own skin.
"All of his friends think he needs someone to make him complete," McClure said. "But he doesn't see it that way at all."
McClure, who performed in the two-person musical "The Last Five Years" in August and, most recently, played the title role in P&J Productions' "Jack" at Penn State Altoona, said "Company" has challenged him as a singer and as an actor - but it's also been a lot of fun.
"It's nice to play the guy who everyone wants to be with," he said. "Who doesn't want to play the cool guy who everyone wants to hang around with?"
The three women in Robert's love life are portrayed by Rachel Volpe as April, Molly Riva as Cathy and Jaime Markel as Marta. Volpe performed opposite McClure in "The Last Five Years" and played the title role in May's "Thoroughly Modern Millie." Markel is a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, commuting to Altoona for her ACT debut and, most recently, played the mother in P&J's "Jack."
"Marta is the least competitive (of the three girls vying for Robert's affections)," said Markel, 22, of Hollidaysburg. "She's very realistic as to his affairs with other women. She's extremely with it - very smart - but also very naive."
Among the five couples in Robert's life is ACT newcomer Lois Kaneshiki, 52, Blair Township, who plays the brownie-binging wife of Max Dick's Harry, a closet alcoholic.
"A lot of (this show) is coming out of the 1960s and '70s, so modern values are being questioned - with the women's movement and the sexual revolution. It's not a feminist play by any means, but it does question whether marriage is an absolute necessity."
Another unique aspect of the production will be the costuming for all 14 members of the cast, Vanevenhoven said - a contemporary mode of dress with a distinctive New York style. Kevin Gibson, owner of Kevin Charles Fine Clothing for Men and Women in Hollidaysburg, donated the outfits.
At the end of the day, Vanevenhoven just wants audiences to relate to what they're seeing on stage.
"I hope people come to this show and see their own relationships within the characters," he said, "different aspects of themselves - good and bad."
Mirror Staff Writer Jimmy Mincin is at 946-7460.