Stephen Sondheim is a true genius in his crafts on Broadway. In a span of half a century, he has created 18 masterpiece musicals. The titles under his belt include “Gypsy,” “West Side Story,” “Follies,” “Into the Woods,” and “Sweeney Todd.” All of his works were able to explore the corners of human nature and capture big relevant themes, most especially honoring ordinary life experiences and making them worthy of songs and dance numbers. For many people, he is a master of lyrics. All of his works are expressed through hefty words as they soar through telling. Among his array of greatest musicals, one of the most notable is about the story of a man or, in the current revival, a woman who is torn about the pressures of getting married. The premise, which might appear quite ordinary, is actually a powerful take on the modern state and struggles of love and union.
Like many of his works, Company holds great lessons evoked through powerful lyrics and music. It captures the current experiences of adulthood and is a great watch for ordinary adults experiencing the realities of the modern world. The Belk Theater showcases the Sondheim musical this cold November.
Company Musical Tickets:
“Company is a bold and imaginative musical filled with magic and heart.” – Click On Detroit
“It is brilliantly designed, beautifully staged, sizzlingly performed, inventively scored, and it gets right down to brass tacks and brass knuckles without a moment’s hesitation.” – The New York Times
The idea for Company came from George Furth, who wrote eleven one-act plays for a certain actress. He wanted to make it into a Broadway show but did not get any funding. This led to him asking for help from Stephen Sondheim, who by then was his friend. The then-rising composer and lyricist decided to ask the opinion of renowned theater director Harold Prince. With the three of them joining forces to create a musical and not just like any other musical made before, it was going to be conceptual, wherein the directors and producers could easily interpret it the way they wanted it to be.
Without a stable plot, they wanted the story to be about marriage and friendship. Themes relevant during the period of the late 60s and early 70s wherein the notions of traditional marriage are starting to break down. Three and a half of Furth’s original text was used for the musical. They then began molding where the musical direction was towards.
“Company is the opposite of solitude and loneliness. It means being surrounded by friends and loved ones. It’s also the tightly knit ensemble of actors performing a show.” – Everything Sondheim
Company opened on April 26, 1970, at the Alvin Theatre on Broadway. It was a smash hit and would solidify Sondheim’s reputation as the greatest composer and lyricist of the 20th century. It ran there for 705 performances before closing in 1971.
The original Broadway production follows the story of a guy named Robert who is single and surrounded by friends and acquaintances who are married or engaged. The entirety of the musical revolves around his 35th birthday. He was surprised by his friends, and while blowing the birthday cake’s candles it triggered memories of interactions he had with people.
During the first act, he remembers visiting friends who had issues with their relationships. It starts with his friends Sarah and Harry, who struggle with the latter’s alcoholism. This is followed by Peter and Susan, who seem to have a perfect marriage but are in the midst of divorce. And then Amy, who is having cold feet during the day of her marriage.
Act two starts with the scene being reset. This time, his friends tell about what they feel about Robert being a good friend and some opinions that are not too kind. Another set of memories then came to mind for Robert. He remembers hooking up with a woman named April, another visit with Susan and Peter, and a night out with Joanne and Larry. These memories and his friends’ pressuring him caused Robert to open up about his issues about commitment until he realizes that he, like anyone else, wants to love.
The success of the musical went on to West End on January 18, 1972, at the Her Majesty’s Theatre. The Broadway cast and production team reprised their roles and jobs in this production. It ran for more than 300 performances.
In 1995, the musical was revived on both Broadway and West End. In this rerun, some parts of the musical were updated. Both productions ran for less than a hundred performances. Another Broadway revival would then happen in 2006, which has a filmed version for DVD.
The original production of the musical brought Sondheim’s first Tony win for Best Score. Furth and Prince also won in their designated categories: “Best Book for a Musical” and “Best Direction of a Musical.” The production also brought home the “Best Musical” award. For the revivals, the 2006 Broadway revival won the Tony Award for “Outstanding Revival of a Musical.” On the other hand, the West End revival won three awards for “Best Director,” “Best Supporting Role,” and “Best Actor in a Leading Role.”
In 2018, a West End production decided to experiment with the musical as it was intended by Sondheim and his partners. In this production, the characters’ genders are swapped. It was a major hit among critics and viewers alike. It also received a thumbs-up from Sondheim himself. It again won the Laurence Olivier Award for “Best Revival,” alongside other wins.
Broadway would catch up in 2021, which was highly supervised by Sondheim before his passing. It, too, utilized the gender-bend gimmick the 2018 West End production had, making it more appropriate for the modern audience. The musical would then receive its third Best Revival of a Musical.
A national tour from the Broadway gender-swap revival is currently visiting cities and theatres nationwide. This tour has an incredible cast that includes Britney Coleman as Bobbie (Robert), Judy McLane as Joanne, Kathryn Allison as Sarah, Matt Bittner as David, Ali Louis Bourzgui as Paul, Derrick Davis as Larry, Javier Ignacio as Peter, James Earl Jones II as Harry, Marina Kondo as Susan, Matt Rodin as Jamie, Emma Stratton as Jenny, Jacob Dickey as Andy, Tyler Hardwick as PJ, and David Socolar as Theo.
Catch the touring cast of Company at the Belk Theatre from November 21 to 26. Book tickets now before they are sold out!