COMPANY (Forrest Theater): Gorgeously musical if lacking in Sondheim’s subtlety

Britney Coleman as Bobbie and Jacob Dickey as Andy in the North American tour of COMPANY. Photo by Matthew Murphy of MurphyMade, 2023.

A birthday as momentous as 21 or, maybe worse, 50. Time goes by and just like that you’re the only person in your crowd of friends who’s single. 

Those friends make up the company of Sondheim’s Company; they are full of dancing and singing  and comic talent, and although we’re happy to watch them onstage, we might not be so happy to have them as friends. Their concern for Bobbie (Britney Coleman) and their insistence that she should get married smacks of smothering (“Have I Got a Guy for You”), if tinged by envy.  

Sondheim’s genius makes ambivalence (“Sorry-Grateful”)  gorgeously musical, but his ironic, subtle sophistication is in short supply in this production where there’s a cartoonish quality to the staging and the acting under Marianne Elliott’s direction.

The much-discussed gender switch in the Broadway production that won five Tony awards in 2022, was largely triggered by the demands of the current culture as well as its dream cast (Patti LuPone and Katrina Lenk);  the central character, hard-drinking sleeping-around Bobby becomes Bobbie, an alteration which Sondheim agreed to and mostly works in today’s world as it might not have in 1970 when the show was written. 

The famous songs with their brilliant lyrics are all there (here’s where comparisons are odious so I won’t): rich, much-married, brittle Joanne (Judy McLane) belts the terrific showstopper, “Ladies Who Lunch,” and Jamie (formerly Amy) played by Matt Rodin twists his tongue around “Getting Married Today” where wedding day panic is delivered at breakneck speed. Tyler Hardwick sings the ode to New York in “Another Hundred People”and Coleman delivers the concluding song, Being Alive” with open-throated verve. And what has now become the signature homage to the composer/lyricist, “Side by Side by Side”  is sung, of course, by the entire company.

[National Tour at the Forrest Theater, 1114 Walnut Street] November 28-December 10, 2023;

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