Review: Gender-Swapped COMPANY Falls Flat at the Ohio Theatre Despite Genius Sondheim Score

Review: Gender-Swapped COMPANY Falls Flat

By: Feb. 14, 2024
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Review: Gender-Swapped COMPANY Falls Flat at the Ohio Theatre Despite Genius Sondheim Score
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Company
Britney Coleman as Bobbie (center) and the North American Tour of COMPANY. 
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Nominated for a record-setting 14 Tony Awards and winning 6 in the original production in 1970, Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY was one of the first musicals to deal with contemporary dating, marriage, and divorce.  Originally played by a male lead, Director Marianne Elliott (with approval from Sondheim) decided to swap genders in the second West End revival in 2018, and Bobby then became Bobbie. We are also introduced to cell phones, selfies, and same sex marriages, which were never part of the original 1970 production. Although I’ve never seen the original version, this production falls flat on many levels.  Whether that’s due to the updated writing, the gender flips, or lack of chemistry between the characters, the show seems cold, forced, and disconnected. 

COMPANY centers around single woman Bobbie, who weaves through various vignettes of married life on her 35th birthday.  With clocks ticking in the background, large balloons with the numbers 35 scattered throughout, neon boxes reminding her of isolation and limits, and her married friends trying to convince her to settle down, Bobbie struggles with the idea of single versus married life and contemplates a future without someone to “hold her too close.”  While Sondheim’s songs are strong and remain the lifeblood of this musical, it’s simply not enough to save this show.

Britney Coleman who plays lead Bobbie, is lovely in her role, but also lacks emotional depth and does not have the powerhouse voice to handle the big songs, especially in what should be the show’s emotional gut-punching finale, “Being Alive.”

The highlight of the show is Matt Rodin’s uproaringly hilarious rendition of groom Jamie (swapped from original female character Amy) who gets cold feet as he’s about to marry Paul in “Getting Married Today.”  This scene alone is enough to come see the show.  Another highlight is the trio performance by Jacob Dickey, David Socolar, and Tyler Hardwick (Andy, Theo and PJ, respectively), who gorgeously sing “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.”

Judy McLane delivers a commanding “Ladies Who Lunch” as deliciously cynical Joanne, which was originally performed by Broadway goddesses Elaine Stritch and then Patti LuPone.

The set design by Bunny Christie features neon boxes where the characters fluidly move in and out of, representing a modern ‘Alice in Wonderland’ curiosity.  

While there are certainly moments of endearment, comedy, and obvious musical genius as one of Sondheim’s greatest scores, this COMPANY fails to reach the heart of its audience and leaves us wanting something more.  

COMPANY runs through February 18th at the Ohio Theatre.  For tickets:

  1. Order online at Ticketmaster.com.
  2. Call the CBUSArts Ticket Center at 614-469-0939.
  3. Visit the CBUSArts Ticket Center at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street).



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