Broadway Review: COMPANY (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre)

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by Cris Franco on April 14, 2022

in Theater-New York

EVERYBODY RISE!

Since its multi Tony Award-winning 1970 debut, COMPANY, the musical comedy exploring contemporary dating, marriage and divorce has been a favorite of singer-actors who relished performing George Furth’s witty cutting vignettes accompanied by Stephen Sondheim’s sophisticated and emotionally complex songs. However, it is directors who really relish delving into COMPANY’s non-linear structure because it allows for bending and shaping of the lead character, relationship-averse “Robert,” who goes on a quest to discover why at age 35 he’s the sole bachelor left among his “good and crazy married friends.” So, over the decades directors have presented the play’s commitment-phobic protagonist as coming from varied POVs: white, Black, straight, gay – and in Broadway’s latest revival — female. This gender-flipping version (devised and directed by Marianne Elliott) so intrigued Sondheim that he rewrote lyrics to accommodate the lead’s new sexual identity. The result is more than a revival and more of a rebirth.

The action opens in present day Manhattan at “Bobbie’s” surprise 35th birthday party in her high-rise apartment. Surrounded by her surrogate family (five married couples and three male love interests) Bobbie (the magnetic KATRINA LENK) is unable to make a wish and blow out her birthday candles. Thus begins her Alice-in-Wonderland adventure where she explores couplehood by entering into her married friend’s lives by way of a silver door key, drinking a magic potion, passing through tiny doors and dropping in and out of balconies. To add to the fun, Bunnie Christie’s sleek, modular, neon set has the number “35” hidden like Easter eggs throughout.

With the orchestra positioned overhead, the action proceeds exactly like that of the original concept as Bobbie is played as enigmatic as Bobby/Robert. Without tipping the hat, we are left to discern for ourselves if she is driven by her biological clock, a search for happiness, simply needs company or all three. Thankfully, we’ll never know as Lenk plays her character close to the vest as a modern woman, living life on her own terms, pursuing her future alongside loving friends – and some off-beat romantic prospects. The gender switching concept works brilliantly with the exception of one beat: her guy friends singing “Poor Baby.” It’s very unlikely that a group of males would pity an attractive, single, female for not being in a relationship. Those considerations are not in most of our DNAs.

The cast are all superb but there are stand-outs: Lenk brings a winning, yet deep introspection to Bobbie similar to Raul Esparza’s emotionally intense Tony-nominated performance in the 2006 revival. Patti LuPone’s jaded “Joanne” commands her every moment on stage, never missing a beat or wry expression. LuPone’s martini-induced lament to those who let life pass them by in “Ladies Who Lunch” brings down the house. Charming Christopher Fitzgerald is outrageously daft as mild-mannered square “David” whose first hits of pot leave him too giddy to talk. Jennifer Simard’s deadpan delivery slays as the competitive “Sarah” who Jiu Jitsus her husband (the always dashing Christopher Seiber) into submission. Clybourne Elder’s believably plays “Andy,” Bobbie’s male bimbo flight-attendant – so dumb, you wonder how he remembers to breathe. Javier Ignacio captured the mile-a-minute neurosis of gay fiancé “Jamie” who is not “Getting Married Today” to “Paul” (the richly-voiced Etai Benson.) And Heath Saunders plays the bohemian “PJ” who explains how “Another Hundred People” make Manhattan the center of the universe. Wrapping it up with the closing number, “Being Alive,” Lenk pulls the whole story together as she works her way from a near breakdown to a promising breakthrough. This is a breakthrough revival with an updated book and lyrics that lends new life to this established musical comedy masterpiece. I’m thrilled that it’s as good as it is because it serves as a fitting farewell tribute to the genius of Stephen Sondheim who did so much to advance the American musical theater.

photos by Matthew Murphy

Company
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (242 West 45th Street)
open run
for tickets, call 800 447 7400 or visit Telecharge and Company Musical

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John Mcfaul April 17, 2022 at 9:31 am

He took the words right out of my mouth — not that I would have been able to spell them all correctly. Almost enjoyed the review as much as the show! And I saw it twice!

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Carlos April 17, 2022 at 6:25 pm

This is one of my all-time favorite musicals! I wasn’t sure that it would work with a female lead, but this review convinced me to see it.

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