David Socolar as Theo and Britney Coleman as Bobbie in the North American Tour of "Company" Source: Matthew Murphy

Review: Sondheim's Gender-Flipped 'Company' is Fresh and Fab

Will Demers READ TIME: 4 MIN.

The 1970 Stephen Sondheim musical "Company" (for which George Furth wrote the book while Sondheim handled the music and lyrics) has gotten several revivals over the years, but it was the 2018 West End revival that first gender-swapped many of the roles and featured the first same sex couple.

Sondheim approved the changes and worked on script revisions with director Marianne Elliot (Tony winner for Best Direction "Company" 2021), and this would prove to be a winning collaboration. Local audiences can see for themselves, as the national tour arrives in Providence for one week.

Bobbie (Britney Coleman, who graced this stage last year as Barbara Maitland in "Beetlejuice") is the 35-year-old single New York City gal whose friends are all wondering why she doesn't yet have a husband. (The original character, written as "Robert," was played by Dean Jones on Broadway, replacing "Psycho" star Anthony Perkins during rehearsals.) The older and humorously caustic Joanne (Judy McLane) provides endless quips about her single life. (That role was originated by Broadway royalty Elaine Stritch, but McLane is well up to the task here.) The musical was one of the first to loosely follow a nonlinear plot; that is to say, Bobbie's interactions with her peers follow no recognizable timeline.

Britney Coleman as Bobbie (center) and the North American Tour of "Company"
Source: Matthew Murphy

As her birthday arrives, all of Bobbie's friends gather in her apartment for a surprise party. The longer first act brings an introduction of her last three boyfriends: Andy (Jacob Dickey, adorable and funny), PJ (Matthew Christian), and Theo (David Socolar). All are vastly different, though the chemistry with Dickey and Coleman is fantastic. But it's Matt Rodin, as the groom with very cold feet, Jamie, that nearly steals the show with "Getting Married Today," the funniest vignette in the first act. Coleman has the voice and a number of quirky moves to flesh out Bobbie, and this makes her fascinating to watch.

McLane nails the signature tune "The Ladies Who Lunch" with remarkable aplomb, and some of the best moments come from Kathryn Allison (Sarah) and James Earl Jones II (Harry) as the dieter and the recovering alcoholic, respectively. Liam Steel's choreography is a technical marvel to behold, notably during the number "Tick Tock," where Bobbie envisions her possible future with Andy and many versions of her and her partner cross paths repeatedly in the same apartment at the same time.

Bunny Christie's scenic design (she also serves as costume designer) keeps all of the action center stage in interchangeable blocks, which works to focus the action at eye level; no fancy digital effects here.

Furth and Sondheim's "Company" seems somehow fresher than ever, bringing a classic into the 21st century and bringing incredible music to new audiences.

"Company" is running through April 28th at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, Rhode Island 02903. For information or tickets call 401-421-2787 or visit www.ppacri.org.

by Will Demers

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