Past Reviews

Broadway Reviews


Theatre Review by Howard Miller - December 9, 2021

Company. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by George Furth. Originally produced and directed on Broadway by Harold Prince Directed by Marianne Elliott. Choreographed by Liam Steel. Music supervision, music direction, and additional vocal arrangements by Joel Fram. Scenic and costume design by Bunny Christie. Lighting design by Neil Austin. Sound design by Ian Dickinson for Autograph. Illusions by Chris Fisher. Hair, wig, and makeup design by Campbell Young Associates. Orchestrator David Cullen. Dance arrangements by Sam Davis. Associate directors Gina Rattan and Tanisha Fordham. Associate choreographers Simone Sault and Richard J. Hinds. Music coordinator Howard Jones.
Cast: Katrina Lenk, Patti LuPone, Matt Doyle, Christopher Fitzgerald, Christopher Sieber, Jennifer Simard, Terence Archie, Etai Benson, Bobby Conte, Nikki Renée Daniels, Claybourne Elder, Greg Hildreth, Manu Narayan, Rashidra Scott, Kathryn Allison, Britney Coleman, Jacob Dickey, Javier Ignacio, Anisha Nagarajan, and Heath Saunders.
Theater: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

Patti LuPone and Katrina Lenk
Photo by Matthew Murphy
I will confess to feeling very nervous as I approached the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where the reimagined, gender-switched revival of the Stephen Sondheim/George Furth musical Company opened tonight. Part of my concern undoubtedly was about wanting this to be a worthy tribute to the recently deceased, greatly respected, and beloved Sondheim. But I also kept hearing a little voice in my head reminding me that the man who wrote the music and trenchant lyrics for this show had, much earlier in his career, penned the words "you gotta have a gimmick." Would Company survive the transition from Bobby to Bobbie without it all coming off as a gimmick, a ploy to sell tickets?

Happily, my fears were unfounded. The changes to accommodate the shift have been handled with great care and precision, and for all the quirky adjustments director Marianne Elliott has made, this is a striking and original addition to the history of the show, which first appeared on Broadway in 1970.

My impression when I first saw it back then, and even in subsequent revivals, was that here was another Sondheim show that would always be remembered for its songs: "Being Alive," "The Ladies Who Lunch," "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," and, really, the entire score. But the format of self-contained short vignettes on the theme of relationships and marriage, and the lack of a through-plot to anchor the main character, have always driven this person crazy.

Perhaps Marianne Elliott felt the same way, because we are now invited to see everything entirely through Bobbie's eyes from start to end. That those eyes are befogged by Bobbie's chronic and heavy use of alcohol and drugs gives a trippy feel to much of the enterprise. Katrina Lenk in the role of Bobbie plays that aspect unreservedly, and while the vignettes remain, the lack of linearity now makes perfect sense.

If this reimagining of Company were merely about a 35-year-old woman feeling pressure to marry, urged on by "those good and crazy people, my friends" and the ticking of the biological clock, it would feel more than a little sexist and constraining. Instead, what comes across as an underlying theme is less "to marry or not to marry" than it is "to be or not to be."

Whether it's Bobbie or Bobby, the character has always been seen as a "cipher," unknowable by her friends or by us. But now we see before us a woman who has been anesthetizing herself with booze, drugs and sex for a very long time. We will never know what lies underneath it all, but it not hard to see a vulnerability that makes us wonder about what may have occurred in Bobbie's past that has led her to this state.

Matt Doyle
Photo by Matthew Murphy
This is all a lot of weight to bear for a show that touts itself as a "musical comedy." So I hasten to add that there is a lot of comedy and great musical performances along the way. One standout is Jennifer Simard, who is funny as all get-out in her big jiu-jitsu fight with husband Harry (Christopher Sieber), a moment that is intruded upon by the oft-married Joanne's acid-dipped ditty "The Little Things You Do Together." Joanne herself is played by that great scene stealer Patti LuPone, who later knocks one out of the park with her rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch," sung while belting down vodka stingers by the bucketful. And speaking of scene stealers, wait until you get a load of Matt Doyle as Jamie on the day of his wedding to his boyfriend (another of Marianne Elliott's updates), getting cold feet and expressing it by singing the daylights out of "Getting Married Today."

The entire cast does wonders in delivering the goods. And, while Katrina Lenk arguably does less well singing/selling Bobbie's big songs, the entire approach to the production rests on how well she is able to tread that fine line between breakdown and breakthrough. When we do finally get to the closing number, "Being Alive," those lyrics have taken on a whole new meaning, and Ms. Lenk steps up to the plate and delivers without going for the slam dunk or stepping out of character. In the end it works. We find we have come to care very much about this "cipher" of a person and wonder where the future will take her.

While we take the time to applaud the cast and director, we should also be very appreciative of the work of scenic designer Bunny Christie, who favors moody grays in her color scheme along with unpredictably shifting sets that reflect the shifting sands of Bobbie's mental state. Ms. Christie previously worked with Marianne Elliott on the design of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and her work here, as it was in that earlier collaboration, is integral to this highly creative and imaginative production. Kudos all around, then, and, please, everybody rise!