Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Company National Tour at the Orpheum Theatre

Company is a Tony-award winning 1970 musical by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth. It's a concept musical that features a series of vignettes about Bobby, a single man, and his married friends.

Britney Coleman as Bobbie in the National Tour of Company.
Photo by Matthew Murphy for Murphy.Made.
The production now playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis is the first national tour of the 2021 revival that changes the main character to Bobbie, a single woman celebrating her 35th birthday and examining the relationships around her.
Company is an unusual musical, since the book was originally written by George Furth as a series of short plays before being musicalized by Stephen Sondheim. These vignettes all occur in Bobbie's head as she braces herself for her "surprise" birthday party, or that's how it seems.

North American Tour of Company
Photo by Matthew Murphy for Murphy.Made.

While the story is non-linear and a bit disjointed, Company contains some of Sondheim's most beloved classics, including "The Ladies Who Lunch," "Side by Side" and "Being Alive."

In addition to the gender swap of Bobby/Bobbie, one of the married couples has been changed to a same-sex couple. The cast in this touring production is fabulously diverse and all completely fantastic. If you'd like to hear what's it like to tour in a Broadway show, check out the Twin Cities Theater Chat podcast episode S2E8: Company on Tour with Emma Stratton.

The cast is led by Britney Coleman as Bobbie, showing loads of charisma and wearing a red jumpsuit to death! All of the performers are great, but we want to give special praise to Matt Rodin, who performs one of the most difficult patter songs in all of musical theater, "Not Getting Married Today" as Jamie, this production's version of the original show's Amy. Rodin makes Jamie a relatable character in the length of that one song.

With this terrific cast, it's unfortunate that the production feels underthought. A few nods are made to updating the lyrics from 1970, and pronouns are changed, but it doesn't necessarily work to just switch out male and female characters. Some of the choices made in the process absolutely do not work. And adding a dream-sequence showing a bevy of Bobbies in various stages of pregnancy and motherhood just muddies the concept, as does an odd Alice in Wonderland visual reference. 

The staging of the musical numbers is done at a frantic pace, with excessive movement that distracts from the songs alternating with far too many opportunities to see how good the ensemble is at freezing. (They are very good, but when I spend time thinking about how good they are at it, it means they are doing it too much.) The pace also has an interesting effect on how the songs are received by the audience. I love how enthusiastic the audience response was, but was a little bewildered by all the laughter during "Sorry/Grateful."

I had high hopes for this production, but found it ultimately a bit disappointing, despite the truly talented cast.