School of Performing Arts puts on ‘Company’ musical

Good friends always try to help their friends out.

That is the basis for the musical “Company” by Stephen Sondheim performed by the Wichita State School of Performing Arts Musical Theatre Program over the weekend.

The show focuses on Robert, a single New York City bachelor, who his married friends try to encourage to pursue a relationship and marriage, but he is hesitant even while pursuing several single women.

The show begins with five couples surprising Robert at his apartment for his 35th birthday. Each couple has a different point of view and tries to persuade Robert to take his birthday wish seriously and to wish for something he truly wants, and go against his usual carefree self. They also disclosed the bittersweet challenges and memories every relationship and marriage faces, leaving him to wonder if he is truly ready to tie the knot.

The show premiered in 1970 and won seven Tony Awards. It played at the Alvin Theatre for 705 performances not including revivals.

Stage director Marie King said WSU has never performed a “concept musical.” Rather, it has always stuck to the usual chronological plot. Another reason was the need to reuse a set from the musical “Chicago” due to budget cuts.

“We had to adapt to the set from ‘Chicago,’” King said. “This is the one that I came up with.”

Choreographer Amy Baker Schwiethale said, for her, the show presents audience a question about what love, marriage and relationships mean to them. It was also an opportunity for students to gain new experiences as performers. The show features 14 roles.

Schwiethale said performers were told what their roles entailed after receiving their individual roles because of an R-rated scene in the show.

About 400 people showed up on opening night.

Candace Wells, a retired WSU faculty member, said she was amazed at the talent of students and program continues to be after so many years.

“The show speaks about love and marriage to many young people especially,” Wells said. “The five main couples in the show are different dimensions of what marriage is or could be, and it did a good job at showing that.”

Musical theater major Lance McDougall also attended opening night.

“The show did an excellent job at showing the different types of relationships,” McDougall said. “Especially in Robert’s search for more than he has and how he was pressured to find love and get married — these darker parts definitely deal with how relationships are in society.”

King said she hopes the audience was entertained and a little surprised with the show. Audiences have always had a preconceived idea that a musical has to be a happy, bubbly, singing event, she said. She hopes the reaction from audiences would be something expected.