SYDNEY — The second production from Kookaburra is a vast improvement on the fledgling Australian musical theater outfit’s debut earlier this year with “Pippin.” Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s 1970 musical, “Company,” about the metropolitan angst of marriage and commitment, is infinitely more relevant to contempo auds and features superior production qualities. But any ambitions Kookaburra might have of joining the international cutting edge remain, well, ambitions.
Gale Edwards’ production provides a strong showcase for the casts’ superior vocal talents and sound quality in Sydney’s Theater Royal is exceptionally good. But much more could have been done with choreography, costumesand staging.
This production sounds like a top-notch company, give or take the occasional breakthrough Aussie accent, but it looks dated and unimaginative. The slight contemporizing of the script, such as a mention of Prozac, doesn’t go far enough.
What a wasted opportunity to re-imagine the 1970 tuner, which was given a Tony-winning Broadway revival last season but has not been staged professionally in Sydney for 20 years. Sondheim jetted Down Under for opening night July 5.
John O’Connell’s limited choreography is not helped by lead David Campbell’s creaky moves. Nor do Brian Thomson’s uninspired sets add much luster, depicting a New York skyline silhouetted in fairy lights and the same thing in daylight pastels, with black and white floor tiles mirroring the black and white wardrobe — all overhung by a neon ribbon tied in a bow.
Ensemble’s repeated re-grouping along left-to-right, rear-to-front lines for the birthday scenes feels claustrophobic.
Performers, however, are strong. Campbell could work harder but his talent is immense, Katrina Retallick again proves herself one to watch and Tamsin Carroll is a scene-stealer despite limited stage time. Same goes for Anne Looby in the “Ladies Who Lunch” Joanne role and Chelsea Plumley as jittery bride Amy.
But for a company that aims to take risks, Kookaburra’s “Company” hasn’t.