Cambrian: Arts & Events

Jill Turnbow takes on big cast, big musical challenge with Sondheim’s ‘Company’

The cast of company, from left, Sarah Ruth Smith, Gregory Gorrindo and Christine Fountain (front); Felicia Stehmeier Hall, Conrad Mendoza, Casey Canino, Bryce Prunty, Theresa Riforgiati, Jesse Waddell, Tara Brinkman, Priscilla McRoberts and John Mackey (middle row); Sergio Gavidia and Lauren Moore (standing).
The cast of company, from left, Sarah Ruth Smith, Gregory Gorrindo and Christine Fountain (front); Felicia Stehmeier Hall, Conrad Mendoza, Casey Canino, Bryce Prunty, Theresa Riforgiati, Jesse Waddell, Tara Brinkman, Priscilla McRoberts and John Mackey (middle row); Sergio Gavidia and Lauren Moore (standing). Special to The Cambrian

Jill Turnbow was drawn to “Company” by Stephen Sondheim’s music, but she also sees it as the most challenging aspect of the show, which she’ll be directing at Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre starting July 22.

“First and foremost, I have always been a big fan of Stephen Sondheim,” Turnbow said. “He is not your typical Broadway songwriter. His music is dissonant, difficult, and fascinating.”

“Company” runs through Aug. 14, with Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.

“The biggest challenge we faced with this production is the music itself,” Turnbow said. “Sondheim’s music is a beast. Intricate melodies and harmonies. But with the help of our musical director, Mark Pietri, and keyboardist, Jeff Mar, we have tackled the beast.”

The play centers on the character of Robert, who’s celebrating his 35th birthday surrounded by his friends. They’re all married, making him the only bachelor among them.

Uncertain whether to be content with his fate or wish for a romantic partner of his own, Robert attempts to understand the pros and cons of marriage through a series of dinner parties, first dates and conversations with his friends.

Although there’s a theme to the play, Turnbow pointed out that its loose plot was new to New York theater when it was introduced in 1970.

“ “Company’ was groundbreaking in its day,” she said. “Hailed in the ’70s as Broadway's first ‘plotless’ musical, it is truly a singer’s show. Though plotless only in what was normal for musicals at the time — linear storylines filled with love songs — ‘Company’ explores one man’s look at marriage and what it means to commit to a relationship.”

The new approach took Broadway by storm, earning a record-setting 14 Tony Award nominations and winning in six categories.

The most important part of my job is to cast the right people. I am extremely proud and happy with this cast!

Jill Turnbow, director of “Company”

Turnbow has previously appeared on stage in CCAT in “Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike,” and also directed the company in “Something’s Afoot.”

“Directing is far more difficult than acting for me,” she said. “It requires months of prep work, balancing the staging, the music and the technical aspects all at the same time. I have put together a great team for this production, which makes my job a lot easier.

“I do consider myself an actor, which I think helps in my approach to directing. I want to give an actor some room to create. The most important part of my job is to cast the right people. I am extremely proud and happy with this cast!”

Gregory Gorrindo stars as Robert. Other cast members are Felicia Stehmeier Hall as Sarah, Conrad Mendoza as Harry, Lauren Moore as Susan, Sergio Gavidia as Peter, Tara Brinkman as Jenny, Jesse Waddell as David, Casey Canino as Amy, Bryce Prunty as Paul, Priscilla McRoberts as Joanne, John Mackey as Larry, Sarah Ruth Smith as April, Christina Fountain as Kathy and Theresa Riforgiati as Marta.

Turnbow said it’s “the largest cast we have put on that stage.”

“I think audiences will be blown away by this cast,” she said. “The music is stunning. And a testament to Sondheim’s genius is how far an actor is willing to go to be in one of his shows. I have cast members from Santa Maria, Oceano, Los Osos, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Templeton.”

Nancy Green is the show’s producer.

“Prior to Nancy Green taking over the space at CCAT, Houselights Theatre produced four shows there,” Turnbow said. “ I was a big part of Houselights Theatre and directed Edward Albee’s ‘Seascape’ and ‘Menopause the Musical.’ We also did ‘Indoor/Outdoor’ and ‘Always, Patsy Cline.’”

The show kicks off with a preview evening Friday, July 22. Regular admission is $20 for that show and $25 for all other shows.

“Company”

When: Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m., July 22 through Aug. 14.

Where: Cambria Center for the Arts Theatre, 1350 Main St.

Tickets: $25 regular admission; $15 for Allied Arts members; $5 for students with ID available at the theatre box office (805-927-8190, www.cambriacenterforthearts.org) or through www.brownpapertickets.com (800-838-3006).

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