Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

National Tour

Also see Patrick's recent reviews of Kinky Boots, Everybody's Talking About Jamie and The Lehman Trilogy

Britney Coleman and Cast
Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade
If you have never had the pleasure of seeing Company, one of Stephen Sondheim's very best (and to my mind, the best of his) shows, and had no familiarity with the plot or characters, I think it would be unlikely you'd sense that the lead character in this production was originally written for a man. Perhaps in 1970, when the show was first staged (and nominated for 14 Tonys, winning six, including Best Musical), audiences might have been shocked to witness a woman in her mid-30s, unmarried, but happily (mostly) playing the field. But our culture has changed so much in the past five decades that hardly anyone blinks an eye at a woman more focused on career and individual freedom than settling down and starting a family.

Company tells the story of Bobbie (Bobby in virtually all other productions, and played here by the charmingly effervescent Britney Coleman), whose 35th birthday is on the horizon and whose collection of friends (correction, married friends) encourage her to find the right man and settle down. While the genders of some of the supporting characters are swapped (most notably, Bobbie's dates), and the pair about to be married–Paul and Amy in the original, Paul and Jamie here–are a same sex couple, the show is mostly unchanged from the original.

Company (music and lyrics by Sondheim, book by George Furth) takes us through a few days leading up to Bobbie's "surprise" birthday party. (Though I have a theory that the show actually all takes place inside Bobbie's head and she considers her options.) From dinner party to drop-ins at friends to a nightclub, Bobbie interacts with her married friends as they try to persuade her to grow up and be as happy (or miserable) as they are.

This action is peppered with some of the best of Sondheim. There's the hysterical "The Little Things You Do Together," in which Joanne (Judy McLane) comments wryly on the activities that make marriage marriage: "the concerts you enjoy together, neighbors you annoy together, children you destroy together... that keep marriage intact." Marriage, then, is both paradise and purgatory. This snarky number is followed almost immediately by the sweet, touching, "Sorry-Grateful," which lays bare the dichotomies of married life: "You're sorry-grateful, regretful-happy, why look for answers where none occur?"

Among the funniest (and hardest to perform) of Sondheim's oeuvre is "Getting Married Today," the fast-patter number Jamie (Matt Rodin) sings on the day of his wedding to Paul (Jhardon DiShon Milton) about his crippling angst at the upcoming nuptials. Rodin performs the number with a glorious sense of neurosis and perfect comic timing. (His neuroses come roaring to the surface again later when he shrieks "I'm as sane as can be!!" clearly indicating he isn't even in the same area code as "sane."

Perhaps the most popular, best-known song from Company is the one Joanne sings to Bobbie while her rich husband (her third) is embarrassing himself on the dance floor at the nightclub where she has been getting soused on vodka stingers. "The Ladies Who Lunch" is a biting, satirical send-up of the many types of rich women who populate Manhattan, and it is given a powerful rendition by McLane.

There's very little plot in Company, as the book is mostly a series of scenes tied together by the theme of the search for companionship while still maintaining a modicum of personal freedom. Ultimately, Bobbie arrives at a place where, despite the long odds of ever really connecting with another person, striving for connection with others is the core of what the closing song, "Being Alive," has to say: "Someone to crowd you with love, someone to force you to care, someone to make you come through, who'll always be there, as frightened as you... of being alive."

This is the fourth production of Company I've seen. And though all were terrific in their own ways (especially the surprisingly excellent staging of the show by the tiny Novato Theatre Company, and the masterful performance by Raul Esparza as Bobby), this Company milked more of the humor in the show than any of the others. While there is a lot of serious content here, Sondheim and Furth have sprinkled the show with delightful, cosmopolitan humor, and director Marianne Elliott and her cast have discovered all the comedy the creators embedded in the show–and found some more of their own through fantastic performances from every member of the cast, as well as some brilliant staging (including elements of a slamming doors farce) to milk even more laughs from the audience.

Bottom line: take a show that was funny and insightful to begin with, switch it up in a way that totally works yet still respects the original intent, give it to a talented director and an equally talented cast, and you have the recipe for a spectacular night of theatre.

Company runs through June 29, 2024, at SHN's Orpheum Theatre, 1182 Market Street, San Francisco CA. The show plays Tuesdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00pm, with an additional show June 9 at 6:30pm. Tickets range from $65-$224. For tickets and information, please call 888-746-1799 or visit