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Company on Broadway

How Company‘s Gender Reversal Goes Beyond Bobbie

In the new Company revival on Broadway, actor Matt Doyle gets to sing one of the most iconic — and fastest — songs in musical theater, “Getting Married Today.” “Oh, my gosh, it’s absolutely unbelievable and overwhelming,” Doyle enthuses. “I grew up watching my heroines of comedy sing it — these brilliant, brilliant, brilliant women. I never ever dreamed that I would have the opportunity to deliver this song.”

“Isn’t that song sung by a female character who is having a mental breakdown on her wedding day?” musical theater fans may ask. That is true. But this is not a typical revival of Company.

In Marianne Elliott’s Oliver-winning version of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s musical about a bachelor named Bobby living in New York City, the genders of some key characters are now flipped. The bachelor Bobby is now the bachelorette Bobbie (played by Tony winner Katrina Lenk). And Amy, who sings “Getting Married Today,” is now Jamie, a gay groom with cold feet.

At Doyle’s audition, Elliott asked him if he could sing “Getting Married Today.” Unfortunately, he didn’t know the song. “I guess I’m a bad gay,” he says with a chuckle. He learned the song overnight, came back the next day, and long story short, he got the part. And now he gets to tackle the special challenge of “Getting Married Today,” a song with a lot of words that are delivered in not a lot of time.

“Having a director like Marianne, who is so specific and so about the words, we really were able to break down the specificity of every single thought in that song,” says Doyle. “And that makes the song so much easier [to sing], because if the thoughts are always there, the words are going to come out.”

Those aren’t the only changes that have been made to this Company revival. In this version, Bobby’s three girlfriends have now been turned into Bobbie’s boyfriends, who now sing “You Can Drive a Person Crazy.” And one couple, Jenny and David, have had their roles reversed.

By changing the genders of some of the characters, it allows the show to ask new questions about roles in 21st-century relationships.

Nikki Renée Daniels plays Jenny, a working mom whose husband stays home to take care of the kids. In the original, Jenny was the stay-at-home parent. This Company is set in 2021, when stay-at-home dads are becoming more common.

Daniels sees this gender reversal as a way of asking salient questions about modern relationships, especially ones in which women take on traditionally “male” roles.

“A lot of women I’m friends with now who are married are the primary breadwinner for their families,” says Daniels, who is also married with kids. “It’s just a matter of figuring out what Jenny and David’s relationship is and how those power structures live within their relationship.” In Daniels’s mind, Jenny was attracted to the more straight-laced David because “he was not someone who’s intimidated by her success.”

And changing the gender of the characters adds additional layers to the show, says Daniels. It makes it more contemporary.

“If we had a male Bobby in this day and age, who doesn’t know a million 35-year-old straight men who aren’t married?” posits Daniels. The special challenge for Bobbie is the fact that, unlike her male counterpart, Bobbie faces a special pressure to get married. “The issue with women is that whole biological clock thing. All of her friends are nudging her to settle down because she’s running out of time if she wants to have a family.”

And in the show, Jenny now says to Bobbie, “You have to give up to get.” In the original, that line was spoken from a man to a man, to talk about sacrificing freedom for marriage. To Daniels, that line, spoken by a woman to a woman, now touches on the question of whether women can have it all: a family and a successful career. “It’s that balance for women: Do you really have to give something up to get something else? And if you do, what is the thing you give up?” posits Daniels.

Likewise for Doyle, turning Amy into Jamie and having him get married to a man turns a scene that was originally played as a joke about “a woman who’s having a breakdown because she’s too afraid to commit on her wedding day” into something more poignant.

Doyle characterizes his “Getting Married Today” not as a mental breakdown but as an act of self-loathing. As a gay man, Jamie doesn’t believe he deserves to be happy, so he is debating walking out on his wedding as an act of self-sabotage.

“Jamie is probably the closest character to who I am that I’ve ever played,” says Doyle, whose Broadway credits include War Horse and The Book of Mormon. “It’s really scary when something is really good for you; those are the scariest things to fall into. The easy relationships are the unhealthy relationships, because it’s wild and exciting. But Paul is so good for him; Jamie’s just terrified that he’s going to destroy it.” Doyle admits he has similar tendencies to Jamie in his current relationship with The Music Man actor Max Clayton. “I have absolutely faced many moments of self-sabotage in that relationship. And making sure that I just accept that love and care and to invite it in has been a huge challenge for me.”

It’s not a spoiler to say that at the end of “Getting Married Today,” Jamie does decide to get married. What that moment means for Doyle isn’t an endorsement of marriage, but as a gay man allowing himself to be happy. According to Doyle, Sondheim told him that his favorite line in the show is Jamie’s line: “I’m the next bride.”

“He kept saying to me over and over again, ‘Please make sure that you scream that line with all the excitement and joy you possibly can,’” recalls Doyle. “I just cannot believe how much he embraces new ideas and how he wants his work to grow. He’s so enthusiastic about people evolving his material, which is amazing.”

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