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Review Round-up: Evans Has Company for Christmas

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Artistic director of Sheffield Theatres Daniel Evans returns to the stage in Jonathan Munby's new production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company at the Crucible Theatre this Christmas.

Evans is reunited with Samantha Spiro, with whom he appeared in Merrily We Roll Along at the Donmar in 2000. Both picked up Olivier Awards for their efforts.

The production, which opened on 5 December (previews from 29 November 2011) and continues until 7 January 2012, has received a rapturous response from the critics.

Evans and Spiro are joined by a company which includes Lucy Montgomery, Ian Gelder, Anna-Jane Casey, Kelly Price, David Birrell, Rosalie Craig, Steven Cree, Claire Price, Alistair Robins and Samantha Seager. The production has design by Christopher Oram and lighting by Neil Austin.

Ron Simpson

"In Jonathan Munby's superb production for Sheffield Crucible, casting from strength makes for an outstanding company … 'Getting Married Today' finds Samantha Spiro performing vocal gymnastics on a patter song while the equally excellent Anna-Jane Casey leads the choir in a saccharine distortion of a wedding hymn and Jeremy Finch (Paul) fails to understand how off-putting kindness and gentleness can be. The great individual set-pieces are given full value by Francesca Annis and Daniel Evans … As Robert, Evans never puts a foot wrong… and Christopher Oram's design sets the tone even before the show starts. Looking at that New York loft, hefty industrial structure contrasting with smart 70s furnishings, the Manhattan sky-line revealed through wall-wide windows, you know you're in for a treat of smart and worldly New Yorkery."

Dominic Cavendish
Daily Telegraph

"Daniel Evans isn’t just any artistic director. He acts, sings, dances and, hey, he also makes damned fine programming choices … Evans, once a memorable Peter Pan at the National, takes on the central role of Robert … Jonathan Munby’s world-class revival reminds us why Sondheim is hailed as a genius … Neil Austin’s gorgeous lighting arrangements complementing the impeccable design (by Christopher Oram) of Bobby’s Manhattan loft apartment… the stage is set for ensemble playing of the highest order. Whether it’s Francesca Annis’s Joanne rasping her way through the barbed, drunken, mocking toast to empty marital bliss 'The Ladies Who Lunch, Samantha Spiro’s hyperventilating Amy with the show-stopping, tongue-twisting, hysterical 'Getting Married Today', or the tongue-in-cheek yet hand-on-heart Broadway pastiche 'Side by Side by Side', there’s never a dull musical moment ... In short: unmissable."

Lyn Gardner

"This 1970 show which boasts the most astonishing score of any Stephen Sondheim work… also comes with a large dollop of irony … The beauty of Jonathan Munby's revival is that it is smart, sharp, and deliciously retro in Christopher Oram's 1960s design – but also full of real pain … The 15th member of the cast is in fact "the city of strangers" itself … It may be set 40 years ago, but it feels frighteningly modern. There is enough star voltage in the cast to blow the mains ring of the Crucible, and everybody gets a chance to shine. Samantha Spiro… is razor sharp in her delivery of 'Getting Married Today', and Francesca Annis as Joanne sings 'Ladies Who Lunch' with the snarl of a lioness … At the end, when Evans sings the spine-tingling 'Being Alive', he suggests a man who really has awoken from a long slumber and who has finally joined the human race."

Dominic Maxwell
The Times

"The opening of this lavish revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 musical is transcendent … Jonathan Munby … The closing number 'Being Alive'… brings the house down, but because it’s a great song, masterfully sung by an arms-outstretched Evans … The cast of 14 convey the perfect mix of romanticism and cynicism, whether Claire Price’s Sarah and Damian Humbley’s Harry… or Samantha Spiro triumphing at speed with the anti-romantic 'Getting Married Today' … The songs are some of Sondheim’s best … Though Francesca Annis as Joanne lacks the lung power of some of the cast, she really sells her solo turn … Evans, also the artistic director here, holds centre-stage with adorable ease … With Christopher Oram’s plush but versatile set and period costumes, this Company looks and sounds superb. Its story, or conceit, isn’t quite as sharp as it wants to be. But it’s still a smart and invigoratingly staged show."

Sheena Hastings
Yorkshire Post

"Daniel Evans… has chosen Stephen Sondheim’s Company as the Crucible’s Christmas show this year, and the decision was an inspired one … George Furth’s crisp, almost acidic book and Sondheim’s biting, unsentimental score capture in perfect balance the glorious but perplexing contradictions in human nature. The set is a perfect New York loft created masterfully by Christopher Oram and lit by Neil AustinJonathan Munby’s impeccable production has several show-stopping moments, including Amy (Samantha Spiro)’s tongue-twisting 'Getting Married Today', a drunken rant by Joanna (Francesca Annis) with 'Ladies Who Lunch' and Evans’s soaring 'Being Alive', accompanied by the rest of the cast."


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