Review of 'Company'

company.jpg https://companymusical.co.uk/

The legendary Steven Sondheim musical “Company” returns to the stage with a wonderful new, modern production at the Gielgud Theatre, London. Bobbie (Rosalie Craig), rather than the original male lead “Bobby”, is celebrating her 35th birthday in New York City but facing self-doubt and pressure from others to be in a relationship. The story involves her visiting various friends and seeing how they cope (or not) with their own relationships while at the same time she experiences often amusing intrusions of their input in her personal life (in “Tick Tock” she is making love with a dipsy flight attendant while her friends comment on the situation as they crowd around the bed). In her friend's dystopian lives she discovers that there is no perfect relationship nor is there a right or wrong in being alone or together.

This is an amazing and touching musical that is both spectacularly staged and performed. Despite having seen the production during previews with the director coming on prior to the performance to tell us to excuse any technical issues of the evening, there were very few of these to be seen despite it's tremendously complex nature. The minimalist rooms in which the story unfolds are wheeled around the stage (and even out from under the stage) into different configurations with impeccable timing and to great effect, never completely distracting from the characters or story. The only issues we noticed were occasional problems with lighting and a piece of set not entirely cooperating but considering the large number of things often going on this was easily forgivable. The most complex of these scenes was for the number “Getting Married Today” where the priest regularly pops up throughout the continually rearranging set (in the fridge, under a cake, behind the door, etc) and the choreography is stretched to the limit. The orchestra is in full view in the top half of the stage above the action unfolding (literally) below – It is nice to actually see them perform rather than simply hear them from somewhere out of view but here there is no mistake that the music is a critical part of the production so it is celebrated rather than hidden.

The cast were incredible perfectly judging the mixture of humour and pathos required. Craig as Bobbie dominates every scene she is in, and it is not because of the bright red dress worn throughout (contrasting with the relatively drab clothing of others and the white rooms of the set). Her voice effortlessly handles the complexity of the libretto with only the occasional (unfortunate in my book) lapse into vibrato. But here the experienced Pattie Lupone as “Joanne” shows them all how it is done playing a wealthy dowager on her third husband. Clear and clean voice in all registers Lupone regularly surprised and her cynical dry character played to the hilt. Another well-known face in the cast is that of Mel Gridroyc playing “Sarah” familiar to those watchers of the original series of “The Great British Bake-Off” who is perfectly cast as very fun wife in a rather quirky, eccentric relationship where both partners suppress their true feelings from one another. Not known for singing Gridroyc puts on a reasonably good show of it though her role is not so taxing in this regard.

An amazing production full of an energy and vitality that often translates on the stage in an unconvincing manner, here it is incredibly successful. Despite tremendous technicality of the staging this never really gets in the way and, after the initial shock of seeing it in action, eventually simply goes unnoticed as the story unfolds, as it should. The cast portray their characters utterly convincingly and, to boot, generally all have tremendous voices. Despite the somewhat narcissistic plot the story does manage to resonate to anyone that has felt doubt in the decisions they have made regarding relationships despite having been written almost 50 years ago.

This is a production that should not be missed for any lover of musical theatre.

Rating:

Review Date: 2018-09-27



Gielgud Theatre

Location: London (England)

Address: Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 6AR

Public Transport: TUBE Piccadilly Circus TUBE Leicester Square

Telephone: +44 (0) 844 482 5130

URL: https://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/theatres/gielgud-theatre/

A small theatre in the heart of the west end the Gielgud has a small foyer with the stalls accessed by steps into the sub-basement. The theatre itself has two balconies, a dress circle and grand circle with the later quite small and very raked (wear oxygen). The small interior has good acoustics. Known for long-running shows including, recently, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” which transferred from the National Theatre.