In recent years, Katrina Lenk has gained the attention of Broadway audiences — and a Tony Award. She originated roles in daring new works that premiered Off-Broadway and in regional theater — respectively, the musical The Band’s Visit, her Tony winner, and the play (with music) Indecent — and come spring, she will introduce another new role, this time in a revival of a nearly 50-year-old classic.
The show is Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Company. It was first unveiled on Broadway in 1970, and is now set to begin performances March 2 and open March 22 — Sondheim’s 90th birthday — at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. The new production, which originated in London, is helmed by British director Marianne Elliott, whose acclaimed imports include War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and 2018’s starry revival of Angels in America. And the director’s updates include fresh twists on gender and sexuality in the musical’s groundbreaking account of relationship issues.
Lenk, who costars with Patti LuPone (reprising her Olivier Award–winning performance from the West End), plays Bobbie, a female reimagining of Bobby, the original’s confirmed bachelor. Lenk’s Bobbie prepares to ring in her 35th birthday with “those good and crazy people, my married friends.”
Lenk, a viola player as well as an actress and singer who majored in music and minored in musical theater at Northwestern University, has actually never seen a production of Company. Though, not surprisingly, she has been well acquainted with Sondheim’s music since her youth. “I can’t even tell you when I first became aware of him, because he’s so much in the musical world,” she says. “I think ‘Send in the Clowns’ was the first song of his that I heard; my mother loved it, and we’d listen to it on the radio. And then we studied him in college, of course. I’ve always been a big fan.”
To ready herself for Bobbie, who gets to sing other standards such as “Side by Side by Side” and the soaring “Being Alive,” Lenk has been doing research, reading essays by contemporary female writers. Elliott’s production is set in the present, Lenk notes: “There are references to cell phones and text messages. I wanted to look at what it means to be a woman in America right now. I don’t get to do that often, as I’m often cast in projects that are looking back at another time or looking elsewhere. It’s actually really challenging to investigate what it means to be here now, rather than playing someone living in the ’40s, or in another country. I’m looking at fiction and nonfiction, autobiographies, just reading other people’s reflections.”
Specifically, Lenk is considering “what we think when we see a woman who is in her mid- to late-30s who isn’t with someone. How do we feel about that? How does she feel about that?” She continues: “I won’t say too much about my personal experience, but whenever you’re single, there seems to be this urge felt by everyone around you, or by society, to ask why you’re not with someone. Not everyone feels that, which is great, and part of it is just that human connection seems so essential. You ask, How much of this pressure is reasonable?”
Though rehearsals don’t start until January, Lenk is also “sneakily working on the music,” she hints. “There’s the pure, unadulterated challenge of singing it, and it’s so exciting to sing songs that, growing up as a woman in musical theater, I never thought I’d get to sing.” She adds, “It’s fascinating how a role written for a man in the ’70s can be so relevant today, and to reflect on how some things are different and some are universally challenging, and some are specifically challenging for women. I like that Bobbie is strong and independent and self-sufficient; she’s also complicated, and mysterious. There’s a lot going on under the surface, and I look forward to exploring that.”
And, it goes without saying, to being in the company that Company will provide her. “To get to work with Marianne Elliott and Stephen Sondheim and this brilliant creative team and ridiculously talented cast — like, what is happening? I can’t believe it. I guess I’m just really humbled.”
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