The Empire Theatre Company’s production of the Tony Award-winning play, Steven Sondheim’s “Company,” opens for an in-person audience this week at the Empire Arts Center.

Performances of the play, which is the first of ETC’s 2021-22 season, are set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 11-14, and Aug. 18-21.

The show, directed by Chris Berg with music direction by Maddie Sharpe, marks the reemergence of live theater at the Empire Arts Center after more than a year of closure due to the pandemic, said Kathleen Coudle-King, ETC managing artistic director.

“It’s like coming home after a long trip,” Coudle-King said. “Our patrons are part of the Empire family, and we cannot wait to see them again inside the Empire Arts Center.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

“The music and the dancing, and the exuberance of the cast and crew is uplifting. The poignancy of some of the songs remind us of our shared humanity. The community -- indeed the world -- really, really needs to feel part of a community right now. This show is going to affirm we are all together on this wild journey.”

Casey Paradies choreographed the show and Diana Chabai-Booker is stage manager.

The original Broadway production of “Company” was nominated for a record-setting 14 Tony Awards, and won six, Coudle-King said.

The story, based on a book by George Furth, is about Robert, a single man who is unable to commit fully to a steady relationship, much less marriage; the five married couples who are his best friends; and his three girlfriends.

Unlike most book musicals, which follow a clearly delineated plot, “Company” is a concept musical composed of short vignettes, presented in no particular chronological order, linked by a celebration for Robert’s 35th birthday.

Fans of Sondheim “will love (the show),” because he wrote the music and lyrics, Coudle-King said. “Lovers of the Golden Age of musicals and (those) who enjoy the beautiful harmonies of the 1950s songs will find that some songs are reminiscent of them, but with contemporary lyrics. ‘Company’ premiered in 1970, so the costumes will provide a kick for those who lived through the ‘70s or wish they had.”

Several members of the cast will be familiar to theater-goers in this area, but others have come from Arkansas and Texas to perform with the ETC creative team, she said.

It is also a kind of homecoming for the lead actor, Tony Peterson, a Grand Forks native who graduated from Red River High School in 2006. He credits SPA with sparking and nurturing his love of music and theater, Coudle-King said.

Peterson, an NDSU alumnus, is choir director at Sheyenne High School in West Fargo, she said.

Other cast members are: Kenzie Henderson, Walter Criswell, Roberto Kereszi, AnneMarie Black, Katie Germain, Matt Stavens, Emily Johnson, Casey Hennessy, Emily Wirkus, Ryan Lynch, Hannah Hill, Anneliese Wolfanger and Gina Uhlir.

Along with Berg and Sharpe, artistic crew members are: Abby Plumley, Timmy Hennessy, Sara Larson, Mitchel Reith, Amy Lyste and Evan Montgomery.

Because of the pandemic, seating is limited, Coudle-King said. “We have only sold ‘half of house,’ which has allowed us to tape off every other row. Patrons will be encouraged to leave a seat between their parties if they wish to do so.”

Empire volunteers and staff will wear masks, she said, “and we encourage our patrons to do the same when they move around the theater.”

With support from a government grant, modifications have been made in the facility to promote hygiene, such as touchless sinks and toilets in restrooms and improved air filtration, she said.

The show, co-produced by Home of Economy, was made possible with grant funding from the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau, the North Dakota Council on the Arts, and the city of Grand Forks, through the Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Region, Coudle-King said.

Tickets are $22 for adults and $18 for seniors and students. Season tickets, which include five tickets that can be shared with friends and used for any show, are $100 or $80 for seniors. All tickets can be purchased online at or by calling (701) 746-5500 between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.