Marianne Elliott takes a gamble reinventing Sondheim’s classic Company as a completely modern production with a woman right at the heart of the story.
Bobbie is turning 35, and after living a carefree single life she starts to look at the people that surround her – her married friends. The musical follows her moment of realisation as she takes stock of her own life and starts to question her commitment to relationships and whether she should be thinking about marriage. This production shines a spotlight on the societal pressure on women to settle down, especially with their biological clock that is constantly ticking.
There is a distinct essence of Sex and the City in this modern day portrayal of women in a genuine, honest and resonant way. This musical emphasises both the questions women are asking themselves and the questions women are constantly being asked by those around them.
This gender-swapped production holds a mirror up to modern relationships and the pressure women feel to be in a committed relationship and what it means if they’re not. Finally, a musical with an older woman in the central role. Bobbie is an intriguing and complex part that Rosalie Craig portrays with precision.
With sublime vocals, she brings immense authenticity to the role creating a character everyone can relate to in one way or another. Craig’s rendition of Sondheim’s iconic Being Alive is charged with emotion and a beautifully powerful moment in the show. Despite her empowering exterior, her loneliness seeps through as we see a woman conflicted by where her life should be going.
Set bang up to date in the heart of Manhattan, Bunny Christie’s contemporary design is Marianne Elliott’s style all over. The minimalistic modern scenes are lit up with luminescent set. Created with cubes that move around the stage, it forms apartments, subway carriages and nightclubs, each scene seamlessly slips into the next.
Propelling the show straight into the 21stcentury, some of the couples in Bobbie’s life have swapped too. David and Jenny’s lines are reversed to make Jenny a high flying career woman and David a stay-at-home-dad. This allows an important conversation between Bobbie and Jenny who knows what compromises she is facing in her life.
Paul is now with Jamie instead of Amy as a gay couple that are about to get married. Jonathan Bailey gives an astounding performance as Jamie with his number “I’m Not Getting Married Today.” Blisteringly funny, his panic is palpable as he performs the pacy song with faultless characterisation. This scene is comedy gold as his sheer terror is enhanced by the singing minister deliriously bursting through the furniture.
Mel Giedroyc and Gavin Spokes are exceptional as the straight-laced, no nonsense couple in the show that despite their frustrations, will stay together forever. This is evident in Spokes’ poignant ‘Sorry – Grateful’, a really tender moment about the ups and downs of love.
Patti LuPone no doubt brings the house down with her tremendous performance as Joanne. Oozing with class, each line is delivered with an indescribable confidence as LuPone makes the role her own. Her version of ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ is worth a standing ovation itself with her slick throwaway lines in this showstopping performance.
This production of Company is what the West End so desperately needs as a female story that needs to be told. Liam Steel’s stylish choreography adds to the contemporary feel which has an Alice in Wonderland flair to it, creating a mystical and almost dreamlike atmosphere as Bobbie’s friends are constantly popping up around to enforce pressure.
Marianne Elliott proves herself to be such a profound director of our generation with this bold rejuvenation of a timeless story. The way she uses the stage to one minute be bursting with energy and completely over the top to then remarkable stillness to elevate the emotion, the audience really go on the journey with Bobbie and it’s an incredibly insight right into the character’s mind. This is exceptionally directed in her crazed 35thbirthday party that goes from heightened exhilaration to Bobbie sat alone with her birthday cake.
I left contemplating how Company is anything but a female story as Marianne Elliott’s production captures the complexity and flaws of humanity in the most authentic way.
On at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End, tickets can be found online here.
Photo credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg