Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On Marianne Elliott's Gender-Swapped COMPANY- UPDATED!
Company just opened at the Gielgud Theatre, directed by Tony-nominated director, Marianne Elliott. The cast of Company includes: Rosalie Craig as Bobbie, Patti LuPone as Joanne, Mel Giedroyc as Sarah, Jonathan Bailey as Jamie, George Blagden as PJ,Ashley Campbell as Peter, Richard Fleeshman as Andy, Alex Gaumond as Paul, Richard Henders as David, Ben Lewis as Larry, Daisy Maywood as Susan, Jennifer Saayeng as Jenny, Matthew Seadon-Young as Theo and Gavin Spokes as Harry. Joining them are: Michael Colbourne, Francesca Ellis, Ewan Gillies, Grant Neal and Jaimie Pruden.
At Bobbie's 35th birthday party all her friends are wondering why she isn't married; why she can't find the right man and why she hasn't settled down to have a family. The multi-award winning musical comedy about life, love and marriage includes Stephen Sondheim's iconic songs, The Ladies who Lunch, Being Alive, Side by Side and You Could Drive a Person Crazy.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Matt Wolf, New York Times: This production is the commercial theatrical event of the year to date. And the Gielgud Theater - where the show and its resplendent leading lady, Rosalie Craig, are on view through March 30 - is not likely to be its final resting place. (It's just one measure of the intense interest in the show that it has already doubled the length of its run, originally announced through Dec. 22.)
Rona Kelly, BroadwayWorld: Phone rings, door chimes, in comes Marianne Elliott, ushering in a new age of adaptation with her. Almost 50 years since it opened on Broadway, Company returns to the West End. Reworked, though respectful of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's original material, this hopefully opens the door for more reimaginings with love filling the London stage.
Peter Yates, London Theatre 1: It has to be said that Godwin, despite his apparently super-hero-type powers as an interpreter of Shakespeare, was not able to call upon any input from the Bard in his quest for re-interpretation. Unlike Marianne Elliott whose invigorating production of Company has landed with triumphant aplomb on the West End stage. The thirty-five-year-old male marriage-phobic Bobby has been transmogrified into Bobbie, the thirty-five-year-old female marriage-phobic and Elliott sought, and crucially I believe, obtained the input of genius of our times Stephen Sondheim, creator of the original musical masterpiece and blessing-conferrer on this latest incarnation.
Marianka Swain, ArtsDesk.com: The most thrilling revivals interrogate a classic work, while revealing its fundamental soul anew. Marianne Elliott's female-led, 21st-century take on George Furth and Stephen Sondheim's 1970 musical comedy Company makes a bold, inventive statement, but somehow also suggests this is how the piece was always meant to be.
Paul Taylor, The Independent: When this groundbreaking musical was premiered in 1970, Stephen Sondheim can scarcely have imagined that one day its central male character would be reimagined as a woman. But he's given his blessing and his co-operation to Marianne Elliott's vivid, deeply felt production which turns Bobby into Bobbie and sets out to transform Company from a brilliant period piece about the sexual revolution of the Seventies to a show that allows us to see the main predicament from the perspective of women in the present day.
Quentin Letts, The Daily Mail: For its snappy production values, for Getting Married Today and for the walnut-veneered luxury of Miss LuPone's presence, as well as the inventiveness of the gender switching, it's just about a four-star evening. But a show to admire rather than love.
Tim Bano, The Stage: Beyond the inspired concept, Elliott directs each moment brilliantly on Bunny Christie's colourful and luminescent set made of box apartments sliding in and out, up and down. Every song is a set piece, some married to magnificent routines and illusions, such as Side by Side by Side performed with frantic party games, others left bare - what else could you do with a song as good as Being Alive? Sorry-Grateful, another stunning bit of music and lyricism, is also sung straight. Gavin Spokes joins Richard Henders and Ben Lewis for this song about the extremes of marriage, both threnody and celebration, and it's chillingly, tenderly beautiful.
Matt Trueman, Variety: Here comes "Company," remade for today. With Stephen Sondheim's blessing, director Marianne Elliott has given the marital musical an incisive gender-flip. Bobby has become Bobbie; bachelor become bachelorette. It brings a 50-year-old show - and its sexual politics - bang up to date.
Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage: Apparently, Stephen Sondheim is rather pleased with this new production of his 1970 musical. He should be. Marianne Elliott's decision to turn the central character of singleton Bobby into a female Bobbie transforms and illuminates the entire show. It feels smart, fresh and relevant. It was always one of Sondheim's very best compositions, witty and passionate in equal measures. This approach makes it a revelation all over again.
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: This is astonishing in so many ways it feels as if you're hemmed in by reasons to cheer. Marianne Elliott's re-imagining of Stephen Sondheim's landmark experimental 1970 musical (with skittish book by George Furth) reboots a modern classic for the Tinder age. It's sensational. But it might not have worked.
Michael Rillington, The Guardian: A gender change can work wonders. It is no secret that Robert, the 35-year-old bachelor hero of this 1970 show with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth, has now become the similarly unattached Bobbie. The transition, as embodied by Rosalie Craig, makes total sense in today's world: my only reservation about an exhilarating evening is that the musical, in Marianne Elliott's production, has lost some of its specific Manhattan identity.
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: Stephen Sondheim's musical comedy dates from 1970, but in Marianne Elliott 's production - not so much a revival as a complete reimagining - it feels wonderfully fresh.
Andrze J Lukowski, Time Out London: Elliott's production brilliantly underscores the existential nature of Sondheim's lyrics and George Furth's book. On Bunny Christie's striking set, Bobbie's adventures unfold in a series of glowing frames drifting through the inky dark. There's a definite Beckettian vibe as she relives her surprise birthday party in an increasingly nightmarish series of repetitions.
Mark Shenton, London Theatre: But in the show's third major West End outing, he is now she - Bobby has become Bobbie - and it is a perennially single woman who is wrestling with these issues. And by making this sly change, director Marianne Elliott and her thrilling star Rosalie Craig have given a deeply familiar and now nearly half a century old show a seemingly radical make-over that thrusts it into the here and now, yet with hardly any lyric changes required. (One of the few noticeable ones: instead of singing "my service will explain", it becomes "I'll text you to explain").
Simon O'Hagan, Radio Times: Company is a chamber work, perfectly served by Bunny Christie's design in which scenes are played out in rectangular compartments that are perhaps meant to hint at life's limitations. But of the pleasures of this production, there really are no limits.
Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times: Elliott has reimagined this musical for a new age and an application that is more universal than ever; I wouldn't be surprised, or at all disappointed, if it turns out to be difficult in future to revert to its old male-centred version.
Alice Jones, iNews: It's not an entirely seamless update. The set - a series of neon-framed interlocking cubes - is a bit busy. And while Bobbie's psychodrama is given a nice dreamlike feel - her birthday party is all dry ice and freeze frames; her "35" balloon grows almost as big as her flat at one point - the intermittent Alice in Wonderland stylings feel like an unnecessary embellishment. For the most part, it works like, well, a dream. The idea that 35 is alarm-bells-time feels a bit out-of-step, as do the pals who are obsessed with the importance of marriage or the need for a husband. Some things haven't changed, though: the fact that everyone has an opinion on singledom, especially those who are long past it, their pious concern masking vicarious envy.
Dominic Maxwell, The Times: How do you make an audience care about a sexually successful but romantically unfulfilled singleton facing his 35th birthday alone? The answer, in Marianne Elliott's often dazzling revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's beloved 1970 musical, is to turn the commitment-phobic Bobby into the commitment-phobic Bobbie.
John Nathan, Metro: With Bobby replaced by Rosalie Craig's flame-haired Bobbie, Marianne Elliott's production reminds us it is plain silly to think that doubts over giving up a life of freedom and lovers for marriage and children are exclusive to men.