Review: COMPANY at Fox Theatre, St. Louis

Revamped Company Freshens A Sondheim Classic

By: Feb. 28, 2024
Review: COMPANY at Fox Theatre, St. Louis
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A winner of five Tony Awards on Broadway and now touring the country, the revival of Company, now onstage at the Fox Theatre, is a fun romp about looking for love in all the wrong places. Filled with great performances and delightful musical numbers, it is a relentless roller coaster ride of emotions whose themes of romance, sex, marriage, and divorce remain just a s relevant today as whenit debuted in 1970.

Given a fresh coat of paint, this production has some amended changes from its predecessor. The first act has been tightened up and its ending has been updated to fit the modern world.  However, the biggest change involves the lead character. Here Bobby, a man on the prowl, has been flipped to “Bobbie,” a woman looking to connect with the right person on her own terms. Also of note, the role of Amy has now been changed to Jamie, giving the show a more modern aspect with the inclusion of a gay couple who struggle with the same partnership anxieties as their heterosexual counterparts.

At the core of the plot is Bobbie, who has just turned 35. She is single and looking, but all her friends are in relationships. Told in nonlinear vignettes, her search for love is shared by several couples, Joanne and Larry, Peter and Susan, Harry and Sarah, David and Jenny, and Paul and Jamie, each of whom have their own issues.

Opening with a not-so secret surprise 35th birthday, Bobbie’s fortunes are spelled out early on when Bobbie fails to blow out any candles on her birthday cake. This moment of awkwardness leads her friends to reassure her that her wish can still come true.

From here Company takes audiences to a pastiche of dating mishaps, emotional quandaries, and marriages struggling to hang on. Despite this, Bobbie perseveres on, dating a series of men, each of whom are peculiar.  As the show continues Bobbie is treated to an endless barrage of advice and interference from her well-intentioned friends.

Staged with moving minimalist boxes to establish the cramped settings of New York dwellings, Marianne Elliot’s Company moves briskly with opening and closing doors serving as catalysts for scene changes. Under her direction the tension comes to the forefront, allowing the ensemble to create characters that resonate emotionally.

Less stagnate and more contemporary, this revival of Company is anchored by a talented cast delivering show stopping performances.  On opening night, Beth Stafford Laird took over the reigns as Bobbie, (filling in for Brittney Coleman) and ran with it. Her dynamic and charismatic performance accentuated the characters carefree attitude and aptly captured her frustration with her friends meddling in her social life. Her voice was in top form, especially during act one’s Someone is Waiting.

Judy McLane is great as the sassy and headstrong Joanne. Boozy and brash she provides the musical with some of its most hilarious moments.

Also in fine form for the opener was Kenneth Quinney Francoeur as Andy, a rather talkative overthinker. Playing neurotic is harder than it looks, and he make sit effortless. His scenes with Laird are fun and frisky.

Another shining star is Derrick Davis as Larry. His performance here uses a more nuanced comedy than his castmates. James Earl Jones II’s turn as Harry is also exceptional.

While Act Two features stronger musical numbers, on the whole Company is a sublime update of the Sondheim canon. The gender flip allows Bobbie to be more human and relatable than the version imagined fifty years ago. Less gauche but still as pessimistic, playful, and promiscuous, this version of Bobbie accurately mirrors the travails of dating in the 21st century.

Highlighted by never timid dance numbers and Sondheim classics like Side By Side By Side and You Could Drive A Person Crazy, the production is big and boisterous. While this revival remains faithful to Sondheim’s original work, this revamped version is glossy and gutsy.  Guided by a talented cast, this Company features welcome visitors who entertain without overstaying their welcome.

Company plays the Fox Theatre through March 10th. For more information visit the link below.