Theatre Reviews
Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade courtesy of The Fabulous Fox.

Marianne Elliott's revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Company" is now on stage at the Fabulous Fox. Meet Bobbie, a vibrant New Yorker surrounded by friends navigating the highs and lows of modern love and relationships. With captivating performances and fresh perspectives, this reimagined classic invites audiences on a journey of laughter, tears and self-discovery.

Marianne Elliott’s reinterpretation of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” promised to be bold, and that promise was delivered opening night as the touring production shone forth at the Fabulous Fox for a run that lasts through March 10.

Elliott, with support from Sondheim himself, made the daring choice to introduce a series of intriguing role changes that offer a contemporary twist on the classic storyline of self-discovery and acceptance. This approach turns characters into ciphers or avatars to more fully explore the modern human condition.

For instance, in this production, the original central male character, Bobby, is now female Bobbie. This allows “Company” to drill beneath the superficial gender observations – such as “would a woman think like that?” – to reveal an underlying, universal (nay, genderless) examination of relationships, marriage, commitment and urban existence. And more than a few laughs.

For some, this gender switching might be considered a sacrilege for this 50-year-old gem. To borrow a line from “Another Hundred People,” as sung by Tyler Hardwick as PJ: “It’s a city of strangers.” But despite its interpretive choices, this revival proves to be no stranger to all the elements of this well-loved and revered musical. All the songs and moments that define “Company” are beautifully presented here, including Hardwick’s embodiment of PJ and his shining rendition of "Another Hundred People." Hardwick delivered a captivating performance that captured the essence of the song's urgency and emotional depth as well as a compelling interpretation of one of the show's standout numbers.

Women in men’s roles isn’t a new concept and can provide a welcome change in perspective and insight – think Glenda Jackson as King Lear in 2019 on Broadway. More important than the role reversals are what this revival puts on the stage. Parallel to Jackson’s accomplishment as Lear, Beth Stafford Laird as Bobbie provided a powerful and deeply perceptive performance. Her performance of the climactic “Being Alive,” with its haunting melody and poignant lyrics, left an indelible impression as her character grapples with the journey of self-realization and acceptance. Laird’s performance – and the members of the equally strong cast  – is a testament to Sondheim’s music and lyrics.

“Company” is a musical comedy, and one of the most enjoyable and funny scenes involves Sarah, played with swaggering sass by Kathryn Allison, in an ingeniously well-choreographed (thanks to Liam Steel) jiu-jitsu fight with husband, Harry (James Earl Jones II). Their scene impressively leverages comedy to reveal the complexities of their relationship as they struggle with communication, intimacy and personal fulfillment.

Director Elliott's vision prompts a fresh examination of character dynamics, transcending the traditional gender roles entrenched in the original production. For instance, the OG Amy, known for “Getting Married Today,” is now portrayed by Jamie, a gay groom experiencing last-minute doubts. As Jamie, Matt Rodin infused this iconic, tongue-twisting number with layers of complexity that capture the essence of Sondheim's brilliant composition. Rodin did the number proud and delivered a memorable and emotionally resonant interpretation.

This reimagined narrative also includes Bobbie navigating relationships with three boyfriends (instead of Bobby and three girlfriends) who join voices on “You Can Drive a Person Crazy.” Furthermore, the roles of Jenny and David have been reversed, adding another layer of complexity to the dynamics. Emma Stratton delivered depth to the character of Jenny, now portrayed as a working mother with a husband who has taken on the role of primary caregiver.

The oft-married Joanne stays same matron of martinis in this “Company,” and she continues to embody a captivating blend of sophistication and vulnerability. Thanks to Elaine Stritch, who originated the role, and Patti LuPone, who inhabited the role in a revival, no other character in “Company” is as freighted by the specters of those who played the part before and set impossibly high standards and expectations. To her credit, Judy McLane’s avoided those comparisons by delivering a Joanne with sharp elbows and a big heart through both “The Little Things You Do Together” Act I and “The Ladies Who Lunch” in Act II.  McLane never lets here Joanne over-steal a scene and always reveals nuanced wit and complexity.

Bunny Christie's set design captured the essence of Bobbie's emotional journey with a unique blend of color and innovation. The use of square and rectangular mini-sets, outlined with lights that shift color, served as visual metaphors for the way the characters are boxed in. Christie’s sets ingeniously shifted and transformed, mirroring Bobbie's evolving mental landscape. From sleek urban backdrops to intricate interiors, Christie's creative use of space and texture added depth to the narrative, enriching the overall theatrical experience.

Elliott’s vision for “Company” captivates with its heartfelt exploration of human connections of Sondheim’s original. With a long run at the Fox, there is plenty of opportunity to experience this highly recommended production.  

“Company” is at the Fabulous Fox and runs through March 10. For tickets and information go to the Fabulous Fox website

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