I gushed over this gender-switch version of “Company” in a prior review of the London production, wondering if it would migrate over to Broadway and lo and behold – it took awhile – it’s now happening!
“Company” will open at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on March 22, 2020. At first I was curious as to why they wouldn’t have opened it on the 50th anniversary of the original Broadway opening – April 26, 1970 – but it turns out that March 22nd will be Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday. Quite fitting, I think, as “Company” to me represents the point at which Sondheim left everyone else in the dust and became the preeminent composer and lyricist whose original voice set a near impossible standard for others to aspire.
This version of “Company” is notable in that some of the characters including the lead have had sex changes. Okay, they’re not trans! But Bobby has become Bobbie and unfortunately, Rosalie Craig who starred in London will not be headlining the Broadway version. All is not lost because Katrina Lenk, outstanding in “The Band’s Visit”, will play Bobbie. She’s perfect because she can just stand there and be compelling and that’s exactly what the role requires since the character spends much of the show observing.
Not all the characters have been switched, luckily for us, allowing Joanne, originated by Elaine Stritch, to be played again by Patti Lupone. Although many complain about her, Patti was marvelous in London. And far from being impaired due to her hip surgery, she joined in on the sometimes strenuous choreography, showing no signs of pain. Of course, she’s now had the second hip replaced, but it’s not slowing her down, despite the fact she had seemingly semi-retired. Along with this show, she had a significant role in this year’s “Pose” and will star in another Ryan Murphy project called “Hollywood”.
For those who hate change, who can’t stand the thought of them messing with Sondheim’s work, get over it. I heard such grumblings during the intermission at the Gielgud Theatre in London (“all wrong!”). However, Sondheim agreed to the concept of the production and had to personally make all the text changes. And in the end, Sondheim himself said, “Nobody ever wants to play Bobby because you end up standing around watching everyone get the big numbers and you don’t get any of the fun bits and nobody cares about you – but not anymore. I wish I’d written it for a woman from the start.” So there.
Another thing I noted in my previous review: we happened to be sitting next to a woman who had seen the original 1970 Broadway production and she said she loved this new take on the show, saying that indeed the gender switch made “Company” relevant to today.
I would also add that this indeed is no mere gimmick. It truly made the show come “alive”, making much more sense for these times by tapping into the anxiety of an unmarried 35-year-old woman, a scenario similar to the ones that fuel thousands of Hallmark movies.
So bring it on. I can’t wait to see what Katrina Lenk brings to the role of Bobbie. But here is a trailer for the London production to whet your appetite.