It’s been 51 years since composer Stephen Sondheim and book writer George Furth first seduced audiences into the confusion of love with their smash hit musical Company. Now, producers have once again invited these fickle beings into our Broadway home through a fabulous new production directed by Marianne Elliott.
This time, new guests and themes have emerged, thanks largely in part to Elliot’s creativity and Sondheim’s willingness to suppress his own skepticism.
The central character in 1970 was Bobby, an affable 35-year-old cisgender man with friends who incessantly pushed him into a relationship with a woman. Subsequent revivals (1995 and 2006) followed suit and cast men in the lead.
Here, 35 is looming over Bobbie (Katrina Lenk), a cisgender female whose hesitancy to marriage eludes her coupled friends.
Does it work? Absolutely.
Although some minor alterations have been made, the musical maintains its original integrity. One might suggest that this version is simply another outdated portrayal of a straight woman who must land a man to find true happiness. Yet Sondheim fans will understand that human emotions and desires far surpass preconceived notions of gender or age. In its soul, Company challenges us—whether single, divorced, coupled, or any combination thereof—to be content with the uncertainty of our romantic choices.
Casting directors Cindy Tolan and Nicholas Petrovich have assembled a marvelous ensemble who deliver this piece with endless zeal. Jennifer Simard, who earned a Tony nomination as a gambling addicted nun in the Broadway musical Disaster! is a true stand-out as Sarah, a diet and fitness obsessed friend to Bobbie.
Matt Doyle and Etai Benson as Jamie and Paul, respectively, also bring a literal halt to the show with their hilarious gay version of “Not Getting Married Today.” Originally Furth created the roles as Amy and Paul, a heterosexual couple. With a fresh spin on the number, it feels much more inclusive than it ever could have been.
There is so much fine talent here but it’s tough to top the star power of Patti LuPone as Joanne, the caustic, martini swigging friend who delivers a sharp and bitter version of the show’s most well-known song, “The Ladies Who Lunch.” LuPone performed the role in 2018 London’s West End where this revival originated.
Set designer Bunny Christie has imagined an envious neon landscape of Manhattan real estate, suggesting that the apartments might be pristine and slick, even if the lives of their inhabitants might lie in doubt and silent suffering.
When composer Sondheim passed away mere weeks ago, tributes, memorials, and honors followed. His stamp in the theater world was indelible. Company reminds us once again of his true genius and deft insight into humanity. It neither scorns nor applauds romance, but rather presents it in all its bliss, disdain, or tribulation–and it emphasizes how delicate and vulnerable we all all are under our strong bravados.
If only all of life’s company were this good, we’d never want them to leave.
Company is now playing on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater (West 45th between 8th and Broadway) For tickets and information, click here