Future Waitstaff of America (FWA) has taken on the ambitious project of putting up an intricate musical in just six weeks: Stephen Sonheim’s 1970 classic comedy, Company.
“It is difficult to coordinate such an elaborate musical in only six weeks,” reflected director Amy Corenswet ’13 in an emailed statement. But with the help of her committed cast and crew, the show has come together. “They are truly superstars who put in insane hours to pull the show together, and are fantastic to collaborate with,” she added.
The musical will be performed tonight at 8 pm, Friday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Susan Stein Shiva Theater.
As the last show she will be involved with at Vassar, Corenswet chose Company for its strong ensemble parts, humor and depth. She has been heavily involved with FWA throughout her Vassar career. She directed FWA’s production of She Loves Me last year and stage-managed You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown during the fall of her sophomore year. Corenswet sees her current project as an exciting challenge to capstone her work at the College. “Company is a perfect college musical—it has 14 excellent parts that give the actors lots to work with; it’s witty and deep, challenging and entertaining, and is open to enough interpretation that the creative team can let their juices flow,” she wrote in an emailed statement.
The show explores the themes of marriage and relationships in New York City, and it is told through a series of vignettes surrounding the main character, Robert, a thirty-five year old bachelor. Corenswet decided to structure the show a little differently than how it is typically done. “I wanted to create a more cohesive story line, so I envisioned the entire show as happening in a single moment of crisis for Robert on his 35th birthday,” she explained in an emailed statement. “In our production, the first and last moments of the show are the only ones that take place in real time. Everything else is either a flashback—a memory of encounters Robert has had with friends and girlfriends over the years—or takes place in a kind of limbo where Robert explores his own fears and insecurities about marriage with the sometimes unsolicited advice of those same friends and girlfriends.”
Ryan Norris ’14, who plays Robert and is on stage for the entire show, has starred in two other FWA productions, including Altar Boyz and Into the Woods. When casting for the show, Corenswet was pleased to find a multi-talented actor who has taken on her conception of the play as a single moment and run with it. “[Ryan] has been key in helping me to develop the concept of the musical as a moment of crisis for Bobby,” she said. According to Norris, developing the character of Robert in such a compressed amount of time has been challenging, but the cast and crew’s cohesion and drive has made it very rewarding. “This process was one of the most difficult I’ve been a part of because of the amount of time we had to prepare,” he wrote in an emailed statement. “A month and a half to put up a Sondheim musical is no easy task, but it’s been a load of fun working very hard with an extremely talented group.”
Sondheim musicals are notorious for their complex, beautiful lyricism—and difficulty to learn and sing. “Any music that Sondheim has been a part of writing is undoubtedly very difficult to learn,” Norris said. “This is my third Sondheim musical through FWA, and honestly, learning the music has not gotten any easier.”
Though on the surface the show may not seem pertinent to most college students because it deals with marriage, Sarah Zickel ’14, who plays one of Robert’s married friends, Susan, asserted that its themes are universal. “When this show was originally proposed there was a little hesitation about putting up a show that focuses on marriage for a college community because most of us have not been married or even thought about it,” she explained. “But this show teaches you a lot about human relationships in general. It’s not necessarily just about marriage and the institution. It’s about connecting with someone.”
Company, though told through a comedic lens, delves into topics of loneliness and the very human need for companionship. In addition, it questions the pervasion of marriage as an institution, and calls on the audience to reflect on what makes for a strong relationship. “Although it is overtly about marriage, it’s really about finding people who push you to be your better self,” explained Corenswet. “The show is tremendously entertaining and can be enjoyed superficially, but it also pushes the audience, if the audience lets it, to confront and question their own beliefs about relationships—both romantic and platonic.”