Renée and I saw *Company* on Broadway on Feb 24, 2022. It's a musical from 1970 with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by George Furth. The central character is a guy named Bobby, trying to find love in New York City and being encouraged by five sets of married couples, the "good and crazy people," his friends.
This production moved over from London. Director Marianne Elliott got Sondheim's approval to do a few revelatory gender switches: most importantly, the central character was now a woman named Bobbie. And she was dating three guys, rather than a guy dating three women. Renée and I had seen Elliott's production of *Angels in America* on Broadway a few years ago and loved it, so our hopes were high for this show. She did not disappoint.
The opening number had me in TEARS, tears streaming down my cheeks, under my mask, down my neck. I was a little surprised that I had such a strong reaction - - I think it was the sheer exuberance of the song and the staging and the thrill of seeing a musical on Broadway after such a long time. Also the performance appeared to be sold out, and the audience was crazy for the show. Here's much of the cast (but not Patti LuPone) performing that number at Times Square. It gives you a sense of the staging but comes nowhere near the excitement of a performance:
The star of the show was Katrina Lenk, who Renée and I had seen and loved in *Indecent* and *The Band's Visit.* I was a little skeptical about her in this part because it seems to require a real set of pipes and what I've heard of her was stylish and full of character but on the raspy side. I was thrilled to hear her singing it effectively on her own terms. Her best singing in the show, vocally speaking, was "Someone Is Waiting," her voice really sounded pretty in that song. Her best song in the show was of course the final number, "Being Alive." Her take on the song brought to mind Kelli O'Hara singing "I'm In Love With a Wonderful Guy" in *South Pacific* a few years ago - - in both cases the actor sang the song not as a show-stopping number but as a pivotal turning point in the emotional journey of her character.
My favorite song in the show is for the three girlfriends, "You Can Drive a Person Crazy." It's such a delightful song, so witty and full of sparkle, it's one of my favorite songs in the Broadway canon. They changed it a bit, to adapt it to three guys singing it - - the original had sort of 1930s radio girl trio vibe, with a lot of "doo doo doo doos," which I guess wouldn't really land with three guys. These interjections were rerouted to slightly different spots and changed to "ba da ba bas." It made sense and the three guys really delivered.
Christopher Sieber had the most touching moment in the show, singing "Sorry Grateful." He really captured the sweet yet slightly sour duality of the song.
Elliott made one other interesting switch, again with Sondheim's approval. She changed one of the couples to a couple of gay men. She chose the couple who do "I'm Not Getting Married Today." Matt Doyle was suitably hilarious and manic as the reluctant spouse. The audience went nuts at the end of the number, which I think had more to do with the madcap staging than Doyle's performance. It was a real tour de force for the director.
The second act starts with a great pair of songs, "Side By Side" and "What Would We Do Without You." Elliott and choreographer Liam Steel staged it with a lot of wackiness but tightly controlled chaos. It was exciting and launched the second act in a most satisfying manner.
Bobbie and one of her boyfriends have a lovely song called "Barcelona." I felt like this production staged it a little too broadly. It would have had more emotional impact if it had been tender and low-key.
I'll give the final bow in my review to the incomparable Patti LuPone. I called her The Human Steamroller when I saw her as Mama Rose in *Gypsy* years ago but was thrilled to see her taking her focus when the spotlight was on her but also behaving like a member of the ensemble in this show. On the flip side, her performance of "The Ladies Who Lunch" was phenomenal, unforgettable, perfect. What a thrill to see a real pro take the stage, hit her mark, and knock the ball out of the park.
Here's LuPone performing that song with the NY Philharmonic in a concert celebrating Sondheim's 80th birthday. She's hugged by Elaine Stritch at the end, which I find so touching (it was Stritch who first played the role).