Friday, April 19, 2024
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A Change in Structure Brings “Company” New Life

The North American Tour of COMPANY. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

–by Ashley Cox

 

Much like the thirty-degree shift in weather, Tuesday night’s debut of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” wasn’t quite what some people were expecting. While the marquee posters and Playbill feature the wry face of Britney Coleman clad in bright red, the man behind me was expecting the original 1971 version and not the 2021 gender-swapped Broadway revival… Chronic bachelor Bobby has now turned into chronic party girl Bobbie. Angry gasps of “Something is drastically wrong. They cast a female as the male. We should get up and leave.” Followed by differently voiced, “I paid over a hundred dollars for these seats. We are not going anywhere.” I was able to witness two dramas.

Matt Rodin as Jamie and Ali Louis Bourzgui as Paul in the North American Tour of COMPANY. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

For others expecting to see Coleman, who understudied Bobbie on Broadway, they would be surprised to see that there was not one cast substitution but four! For a musical with only fourteen roles, that is indeed a different performance. The role of Bobbie was played by Beth Stafford Laird. Susan and the Priest were hilariously performed by Elysia Jordan. The role of Peter was played by Christopher DeAngles. Clueless Andy was filled in by Kenneth Quinney Francoeur. Even as the understudy, Beth brought such depth and natural chemistry to the role of Bobbie. The finale “Being Alive” sung alone on a pitch-black stage brought me to near sobs.

Anyone familiar enough with Broadway knows the name Stephen Sondheim but looking back through my memory, this was my first time seeing one of his works. Many modern productions are based on movies or structured around top of the chart hits, but this is classic Broadway. It is an original story with original songs. The unique storytelling style may not be for everyone. While “Company” is ultimately structured around Bobbie’s 35th birthday, the acts are a series of vignettes with no set linear time structure. We never know how long ago these moments took place or which were first or last. Bobbie’s friends are all married and worried in their own dysfunctional ways about her chronic single-dom.

Britney Coleman as Bobbie (center) and the North American Tour of COMPANY. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

The sets are minimal. Frequently just sliding boxes featuring monochromatic rooms with the number 35 deftly displayed in them. All color is formed by the cast’s bright clothing and splashes of vibrant hair. The focus is on the story and performances. “Company” is genuine, raw, and heart breaking. I left feeling introspective.

 

This show is not for children as it features strong language and mature themes, including a sex scene. “Company” runs through March 10th and I implore you to see it (Available HERE). You will not regret it. Your next chance to see Broadway at the Fox will not be until April 9th with the opening of “The Book of Mormon.”

 

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