After a long wait, the much-loved musical Company, which has always been one of Stephen Sondheim’s best, has opened in the West End. The groundbreaking musical hit the theatres in 1970 and no one could have imagined that decades later, Marianne Elliot would reimagine its central male character as female.
Company is both witty and passionate in equal amounts and it was heartwarming to witness its intelligently reimagined revival. Rumours are that Sondheim is happy with the new production. Elliot’s decision to turn the central character of a single man (Bobby) to a single woman (Bobbie) is the highlight of the show. It has completely transformed and lightened up the entire musical. It was a fresh and somewhat relevant change in line with the present times.
Elliot’s consistency and care have done a fabulous job on the final production. She collaborated with Sondheim regarding the changes and the duo’s attention to detail speaks for itself. Sondheim’s original character, Bobby, was a New York bachelor and a womanizer never fully committing to anyone. He has married friends who want to see him married. On the other hand, Elliot’s Bobbie is a woman who is hesitant to give up her freedom and is silently watching her biological clock ticking.
Company is a musical that portrays the life of a woman of 35 who is measuring her gains and losses by being unmarried. Bobbie has a thriving career, a chic apartment and many boyfriends to keep her company. But as she enters her 35th year, she is questioning her choices and whether she wants to settle down or not.
Matthew Seadon-Young, Richard Fleeshman, and George Blagden acted as Bobbie’s current boyfriends and their “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” was a charming performance. The energy of the musical remained high throughout the play. Bunn Christie’s sliding neon-rimmed rooms paired with Neil Austin’s lighting created an aura of grey that is both creepy and elegant and at the same time. It gave the audience the impression of being inside Bobbie’s head.
The staging of Company was commendable, to say the least. Calling it a stylish fantasy would be appropriate where Bobbie’s meeting with her “good and crazy people/my married friends” aren’t really meetings but adventures like Alice in Wonderland.
Rosalie Craig is glorious in the central role. Previous male Bobby of Company might come off as chilly but not Craig. She is the kind of character that wonderfully represents both her isolation and her need to have someone close by. The balance the show arrives at the end is pure and convincing.
Jonathan Bailey’s frantic patter song “Getting Married Today’’ was intensely hilarious. The Broadway legend Patti LuPone was outstanding as Joanne and delivered each line with just the correct amount of aplomb and menace. Her rendition of “The Ladies Who Lunch” was reflective and profound by all means. Liam Steel choreographed it beautifully.
The gender switch of Amy to Jamie and the addition to a gay wedding focuses on that flavour of modernity that always existed in Company. All in all, the musical sounds as good as it looks with the orchestra (Joel Fram) being high above the stage. Although minor changes have been made each of them makes sense. And the results, are profound. The slight modifications make it seem like it was written yesterday and not 48 years ago.