The eagerly anticipated revival of the Stephen Sondheim/George Furth musical Company, which received an acclaimed West End production under the direction of Marianne Elliott in 2018, is making its way to Broadway in the spring of 2020. This groundbreaking production of the musical, that abandons traditional gender assignations of some of the show’s characters, will begin previews at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on March 2, 2020 toward a March 22 opening (Stephen Sondheim’s birthday).
Starring as the central character of “Bobbie” will be Tony winner Katrina Lenk (The Band’s Visit). Bobbie is about to celebrate her 35th birthday, but finds herself having trouble understanding and embracing commitment. She spends the show’s duration examining the marriages of several of her friends, attempting to sort out her aversion to matrimony. Joining Lenk in the production will be two-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone (Evita, Gypsy) as the acerbic Joanne, one of Bobbi’s married friends who sings the show’s Act II showstopper “The Ladies Who Lunch.” LuPone is reprising her performance from the London run of this revival.
Company, which originally opened on Broadway in 1970, followed a male character named Bobby. Director Marianne Elliott (Angels in America, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nigh-time), has reimagined the musical with a female in the lead, switched the genders of some of the show’s characters including turning girlfriends “Marta, Kathy and April” into “PJ, Theo and Andy,” and has included a same-sex couple, turning “Paul and Amy” into “Paul and Jamie.” All alterations to characters and lyrics were made with the blessing and input of Stephen Sondheim. The production proved a critical hit and audience favorite in London.
The Company revival will feature choreography by Liam Steele. Sets and costumes will be designed by Bunny Christie, lighting design by Neil Austin, and sound design by Ian Dickinson (Autograph Sound). Chris Fisher will design the show’s illusions.
The musical was Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince’s first collaboration as composer/lyricist and director, respectively. Company launched a decade of groundbreaking new musicals that they would create together, including Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Merrily We Roll Along.
The score for Company features an array of Sondheim favorites including “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” “Another Hundred People,” “Getting Married Today,” “Being Alive,” “Sorry/Grateful”, “Barcelona”, the aforementioned “The Ladies Who Lunch” and the title song. At the 1971 Tony Awards, Sondheim won awards for Best Music and Best Lyrics, the one time that the two were awarded separately instead of combined as “Best Score.”
The original Broadway production of Company won six Tony Awards including Best Musical. Directed by Harold Prince, the show starred Dean Jones, Elaine Stritch, Charles Kimbrough, Barbara Barrie, Donna McKechnie, Pamela Myers, and Susan Browning. Michael Bennett provided Company’s musical staging. The production ran for 705 performances and soon secured its legacy as a landmark of musical theatre history. Company was a successful concept musical, composed of a series of vignettes that explored a theme, tethered by a central character. Traditionally, musicals followed a linear storyline and Company’s success opened the door for new ways to tell a stories through musical theatre.
Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. His forthcoming book, Sitcommentary: The Television Comedies That Changed America, will hit the shelves in October, 2019. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.