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Sondheim’s ‘Company’ staged by Kaua‘i Community Players

The Kaua‘i Community Players are closing out their season on a high note with the late Stephen Sondheim’s iconic comedy “Company.”

Director Dennis McGraw, who has headed three other productions at KCP, saw the show as a chance to honor the legendary writer and composer, who passed away in November at the age of 91.

“Just from a musical standpoint, the innovations made by this man are astounding,” McGraw writes in his program notes. “The way he uses harmony and meter changes to raise and release tension in the listener is beyond brilliant.”

Through a series of vignettes set around a man’s 35th birthday, “Company” looks at dating, marriage and divorce in a way that was revolutionary when it was released in 1971.

“This was not his first show,” said McGraw. “But it was the first show to depart from the successful formula used by musical theater composers for decades.”

The show stars Jarhett Gaines in a strong performance as Bobby, the only bachelor in a group of friends who have all coupled up.

“I’ve wanted to do this show for 20 years,” said Gaines, who has performed on Kaua‘i since he was 14 years old. “When I found out they were doing it I jumped at the opportunity.”

The character of Bobby presented an interesting challenge for Gaines, who described the role as a “weirdly conflicted, congenial, charismatic guy who’s just downing in a fear of intimacy.”

Bobby swings back and forth between longing for connection and living in fear of it, a theme that still resonates 50 years after the original production.

“If you get married, there’s another person there — all the time,” says Bobby at one point in the show. “And you can never get out of it.”

“Company” features an ensemble cast that deftly handle Sondheim’s difficult harmonies, and each find ways to shine in their individual vignettes.

Kenji Juravic and Averie Soto perform a memorable bit as a couple that playfully brawls with each other as Bobby uncomfortably third-wheels.

“It made me feel young again,” said Juravic, a long-time musician, of getting back on-stage in front of an audience. “This island is really special island.”

Tawna Bensaid is hilarious as Jenny, who insists that the weed she’s smoking must not be working on her as she gets progressively more and more stoned.

The first act closes with an incredible performance from Mckenna Pascua as Amy, the frenetic bride to be in the rapid-fire “Not Getting Married Today.”

In Act II, “Barcelona,” with Gaines and Ira Drake in the role of April, brilliantly captures the awkwardness of a morning after a hookup.

Dottie Bekeart had recently watched Patti Lupone play her role of Joanne, an older woman who tries to seduce Bobby, on Broadway.

“I didn’t do it like her,” said Bekeart, who also recently starred in the KCP production of “Mama Won’t Fly.” “I did it drunker.”

“People say that he was criticizing marriage,” said Bekeart, of the show. “I don’t think so. I think he was showing all sides of it.”

The show runs now through May 29, at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m., at the Puhi Theatrical Warehouse at 4411-E Kikowaena St.

Tickets are available for purchase on the KCP website, kauaicommunityplayers.org.
Source: The Garden Island

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