COMPANY by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth, directed by Gary Griffin, with Dan Chameroy, Louise Pitre, W. Joe Matheson, Carly Street, Jeff Lillico, Nora McLellan, Brent Carver, Eliza-Jane Scott, David Keeley, Nia Vardalos and Steven Sutcliffe. Presented by Theatre 20 at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). Previews begin Saturday (June 21), opens June 26 and runs to July 13, Tuesday-Saturday and July 6 at 8 pm (no show July 4), matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm and Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $30-$89. 416-368-3110, theatre20.com.
Dan Chameroy is in great Company.
Not only is he playing Bobby, the main character in Stephen Sondheim's 1970 breakout musical, but he's also surrounded by the cream of Canadian musical theatre performers, including Louise Pitre, Nora McLellan, Steven Sutcliffe and Brent Carver.
The production has been a dream of Theatre 20's since the troupe's inception.
"Company was at the top of the list of shows we wanted to do," recalls Chameroy, a founding member of the artist-led troupe formed to present story-driven musicals both new and established. "Of course it has to do with the quality of the writing, but also because it's an ensemble piece both in its plot and its presentation."
Bobby is an unwed 35-year-old New Yorker whose life is largely taken up by five married couples, friends who urge him to take the marital plunge. We also meet three of the women Bobby's dating, though he doesn't consider any of them ultimately right.
"The show is about those relationships and how they form his thoughts about so many things," says Chameroy, who's equally skilled in musicals and straight plays. He's done fine work at Stratford and Soulpepper and, in drag, in goosing several holiday pantos.
"Every performer gets to shine, to go through a personal journey, and it's great to be at the centre of that and share the stage with really talented people."
At some level, the five couples function as a kind of therapy group nudging Bobby toward a match that clicks.
"He's a viewer, almost an audience member, witnessing the trials and tribulations of each relationship and the surprises that come up in each scene," says Chameroy. "Both Bobby and the real audience are caught off-guard by what they see. And what he discovers is that marriage isn't predictable or controllable.
"Marriage is big for Bobby. He's not fearful of it but has a high standard of what it should be. Some people talk about his having relationship phobia, but neither I nor director Garry Griffin feel that's what he's about."
By the play's end, with the stirring number Being Alive, he realizes the standard he's set for a wife is unattainable, that one has to make sacrifices in order to balance a relationship.
"Marriage comes with flaws, and you just have to accept them. But with that acceptance comes a great love; you have to forgive the other person and move forward rather than walk away, learning from the lessons you've had."
What most people remember about Company are Sondheim's melodies and lyrics, including the difficult patter song Getting Married Today, the cool, big-city aloofness of Another Hundred People and that tribute to well-to-do, bored society matrons, The Ladies Who Lunch.
But Chameroy has equally good things to say about George Furth's book, "a strong, complicated script that has a real rhythm to it, like the music."
He can't help but come back to the songs, though.
"If you follow the music as it's written, the journey you go on is amazing. It's all in the rhythms, the words, the melodies and the subtle changes that happen all the time. Sondheim's music celebrates those changes, and the magic is that it always sounds spontaneous and in the moment.
"Performing his work makes you better as an actor. I'd do every one of his shows if I could."