Alison Starr may have grown up in Los Altos, but the actress, who is performing off stage in South Bay Musical Theatre’s upcoming production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, has called Santa Clara her home for the past year.
“I lived in Maryland for five years after I got married and my husband and I decided to move back to California to start a family and this is where I’m from,” said Starr. “Santa Clara was one of our top choices.”
Ironically, about a year ago, Starr was cast as the understudy for Joanne and Susan in Company, which won the 1971 Tony Award for Best Musical. The musical, with its book by Gorge Furth, was originally scheduled for an SBMT run in January of this year, but ultimately postponed due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns.
“This show has been postponed and now we’re finally doing this in front of an audience,” Starr said. “I’ve never had that experience before and we had to wait almost a year to do it. It’s a very surreal experience and we’re all so eager to put this on and I think that adds to the excitement. No COVID is going to stop us and I really want to try to hold on to this moment.”
Company, which also won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical in 2006 and earlier this year, isn’t a typical theater piece. Instead of following a linear storyline, the performance centers on a series of short vignettes linked by a character’s (Robert) 35th birthday.
“The show, in a nutshell, is exploring marriage and relationships and how you look at Bobby,” Starr said. “There is this universal theme of marriage and relationships and people can relate to something.
“There is no plot to the show,” she continued. “It’s a concept musical, which means there’s more vignettes of scenes, but each scene is a theme about relationships and marriage. You aren’t going to see a typical beginning, middle and end. In Sondheim, you really have to listen to the music and the lyrics, which is what really propels the characters forward.”
Starr said she loves the character of Joanne, calling her complex, honest, sarcastic and brash, and noting her great lines and hint of vulnerability. And, although Starr may not be seen on stage at any performance – currently there are no scheduled nights she knows she’ll need to fill in for Joanne or Susan – her voice is on display nightly as she is part of the off stage vocal ensemble.
Despite the possibility of performing entirely behind-the-scenes, this show is particularly special to Starr, as she will soon be embarking on a new journey later this year – motherhood.
“It was perfect timing,” she said. “If it was scheduled for November or December, I wouldn’t have been able to do it…When the baby comes, my life is going to change and I’m glad to be around theater people and theater in general.
“For anyone who isn’t familiar with Sondheim,” she added, “they should get geared up and watch Company. It will make them want to see more Sondheim shows. His work is wonderful and influential. This show is hilarious. The music is wonderful and we have such a talented cast. You will be touched and really relate to the characters and their situations. It’s going to be a wonderful night of theater and has been a blast creating this work.”
SMBT’s Company opens at the Saratoga Civic Center Theater, 13777 Fruitvale Ave. in Saratoga, Saturday, Sept. 24 and runs through Saturday, Oct. 15. Tickets, $25-55, are available at www.SouthBayMT.com or by calling (408) 266-4734.