Review: Gender-Swapped COMPANY Cleverly Reimagines Sondheim Show

Musical runs through April 14 at Citizens Opera House

By: Apr. 08, 2024
Review: Gender-Swapped COMPANY Cleverly Reimagines Sondheim Show
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More than 50 years after its original Broadway production, which had a Boston tryout at the Shubert Theatre, the Stephen Sondheim musical “Company,” with book by George Furth, had its third revival in 2021, in a sprightly, cleverly reimagined, gender-swapped production that won five Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.

The search for love remains central to the story of the turning-35, but still unmarried, Bobbie, now a bachelorette. At her birthday party, Bobbie is engulfed by her devoted circle of friends who freely question why she isn’t married? Why she can’t find the right man? And why she can’t just settle down and have a family?

It might have been nice if this update also found at least a few of the friends asking why she can’t find the right woman? That small quibble aside, however, the high-gloss second North American tour – being presented by Broadway In Boston at the Citizens Opera House through April 14 – is thought-provoking, sophisticated, and great fun.

Director Marianne Elliott first helmed this version for a 2018 run in London’s West End which starred Katarina Lenk as Bobbie, and Patti LuPone as Joanne. Both Lenk and LuPone reprised their London roles in the 2020 Broadway transfer, which earned LuPone the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

The brilliant Sondheim – who passed away, at 91, in late November 2021, not long after attending this revival’s post-Covid reopening at Broadway’s Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre – left a musical-theater legacy that includes the lyrics for “West Side Story” and “Gypsy,” and the music and lyrics for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Follies,” “A Little Night Music,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Merrily We Roll Along,”  “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Into the Woods,” this tune-filled “Company,” and more.

Elliott’s imaginative and brisk direction is a perfect complement to Sondheim’s score and Furth’s book, and showcases her multi-talented cast headed by Coleman, who understudied Lenk in the role of Bobbie on Broadway. Coleman holds center stage throughout the show in an abundantly appealing portrayal that is enriched by her beautiful vocals on the title song as well as “Someone Is Waiting,” “Marry Me a Little,” “Side by Side by Side,” and the stirring, full-throated “Being Alive.”

Bobbie may have the hearts of sexy flight attendant Andy (Jacob Dickey), new-to-the-big-city Theo (David Socolar), and native New Yorker PJ (Tyler Hardwick), but the trio of besotted suitors see her clearly, too, as they demonstrate on “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.”

As Jamie, Matt Rodin serves up the production’s most inspired and marvelous musical moment in “Getting Married Today” – a funny and feverishly paced lament by a groom-to-be who finds himself riddled with uncertainty. Should he head down the aisle with his betrothed, Paul (a winningly sincere Jhardon DiShon Milton), or out the door. Adding to his panic is a priest, played with abandon by Marie Kondo, who lives in Jamie’s head and enters the action in a host of ways including by popping out of the refrigerator.

In the original production, Joanne, a gin-swilling socialite with too much time on her hands, was played by Elaine Stritch, who made “The Ladies Who Lunch” the stuff of legend. In this revival, Patti LuPone put her own stamp on the iconic number. Stritch and LuPone are hard acts to follow. In this touring production, the dependable Judy McLane comes close to living up to the expectations set by her estimable predecessors. The rich-voiced and dashing Derrick Davis also does fine work as Larry, Joanne’s loyal and understanding husband.

Liam Steel’s clever choreography keeps the characters in winning motion while the production is given an eye-catchingly contemporary look by scenic and costume designer Bunny Christie, shown off by Neil Austin’s lighting.

Photo caption: Britney Coleman, at center, and the company of “Company.” Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.


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