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Review: Almost 50 Years Later, COMPANY Is Still Awesome, at Broadway Rose

Amazing that a musical from 1970 can still feel so fresh. But that's exactly what Broadway Rose accomplishes with their current production of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's COMPANY.

COMPANY ushered in the era of the modern musical. It was the first musical ever to be based on a concept, rather than driven by a plot. The show is a set of short vignettes about marriage and relationships. At the center is Robert (Bobby), a bachelor whose married friends are all throwing him a party for his 35th birthday. Bobby is something of a third wheel in all of their relationships, learning vicariously about what it means to spend your life with someone. As he approaches his birthday, Bobby starts to look at his life and wonder whether something is missing.

Although this was the first time I'd seen it live, COMPANY is one of my favorite musicals. No matter how many times I hear the music, I still find myself in awe of how perfectly Sondheim's lyrics capture the essence of marriage (or any long-term relationship). I've been married for almost 12 years, and I identify with different characters now then I did 10 or 15 years ago.

For the Broadway Rose production, director Annie Kaiser has chosen to present a very traditional COMPANY, set squarely in the 70s. But put these same people in skinny jeans rather than bellbottoms, and it wouldn't have mattered. Its timelessness is exactly why this musical has such staying power.

There's no room in the cast for any slouches, and the company of COMPANY includes many familiar faces at Broadway Rose, as well as a couple of newcomers, several of whom delivered standout performances.

First, Renee Lawrence is stellar as Marta, one of Robert's love interests. Sondheim had to rewrite a scene to preserve Marta's song "Another Hundred People" from being cut from the show. I think if he heard Lawrence sing it, that would reaffirm he'd made the right choice. Also, Dru Rutledge, who has one of the most beautiful voices around and whose facial expressions bring everything to a whole new level (especially during "Getting Married Today"). And Norman Wilson, who has the distinction of being the first one to make me cry in this show during the song "Sorry-Grateful." Finally, Luisa Sermol. It takes a special kind of performer to fill shoes that were once worn by both Elaine Stritch and Patti LuPone. Sermol does this with ease. Her "Ladies Who Lunch" well deserved a standing ovation.

Funnily, the only actor I wanted a little more from was Jared Q. Miller in the role of Robert. He has a spectacular voice, but the first time I saw Mr. Miller was in Broadway Rose's production of OKLAHOMA!, and during COMPANY I kept wishing for a little more of that Curly charm.

Overall, I think COMPANY endures as not only the first modern musical, but one of the best. I very much enjoyed Broadway Rose's production, and you will too. More info and tickets here.

Photo Credit: Liz Wade

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