‘Company’ review

Theatre, Musicals Gielgud Theatre , Soho Until Saturday March 30 2019
Recommended
5 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(14user reviews)
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© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg Rosalie Craig
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© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg Rosalie Craig, Alex Gaumond Jonny Bailey
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© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg Rosalie Craig (Bobbie)
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© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg GavinSpokes (Harry) RosalieCraig (Bobbie) MelGiedroyc (Sarah)
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© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg Patti LuPone (Joanne)
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© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg Rosalie Craig (Bobbie)
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© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg Rosalie Craig (Bobbie) George Blagden (PJ)
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© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg Rosalie Craig (Bobbie)
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© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg Rosalie Craig (Bobbie) Richard Fleeshman (Andy)
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© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg Rosalie Craig, Richard Henders, Jennifer Saayeng
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© Brinkhoff/Moegenburg Rosalie Craig (Bobbie) Matthew Seadon Young (Theo) 

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Rosalie Craig and Patti LuPone star in Marianne Elliott’s tour de force reworking of Sondheim’s sardonic musical

Marianne Elliott’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical comedy ‘Company’ was announced at what felt like some point in the late Cretaceous Period. And we knew from the get-go that the lead role of terminally single 35-year-old New Yorker Bobby (a man) would be gender switched to Bobbie (a woman), played by Rosalie Craig.

The potential for this to be a novelty hung over it… but now that it’s here I’m going to cheerily declare that Elliott has found hidden depths in what was already a stone-cold classic. In 2018, when the borderline geriatric likes of Tom Cruise and Daniel Craig still regularly play sexy bachelors, the notion of a 35-year-old man being under any great pressure to settle down seems kind of quaint. But there is, of course, intense pressure for women to do so, before society deems them wanting for letting their youth and fertility run out. The nagging concerns heaped upon Bobbie for her singledom make total, crystal clear, perfectly realised sense. (NB Bobbie is straight, with the hopeless trio of lovers now men – a move that takes a certain misogynist sting out of the writing).

‘One is lonely and two is boring’ runs Sondheim’s most pithy summation of Bobbie’s dilemma, and it’s intentionally never resolved. Craig is immaculate as a hazy woman trapped in an existential funk. Her coupled-up friends have committed to things, and it hasn’t made them happy. So Bobbie remains an outsider in her own life, committed to nothing, a permanent glass of bourbon her only definite personality trait.

Elliott’s production brilliantly underscores the existential nature of Sondheim’s lyrics and George Furth’s book. On Bunny Christie’s striking set, Bobbie’s adventures unfold in a series of glowing frames drifting through the inky dark. There’s a definite Beckettian vibe as she relives her surprise birthday party in an increasingly nightmarish series of repetitions.

It’s important at this stage to point out that ‘Company’ is entertaining as hell. For starters,
its cynical depiction of amoral New Yorkers screwing up their own lives is incredibly funny: ‘Seinfeld’ years before there was ‘Seinfeld’, and with much better songs.

And Elliott has put together a cast to die for. Liam Steel has brilliantly choreographed the ensemble scenes, notably the hellish party of ‘Side by Side by Side’. But ‘Company’ mostly unfolds as a series of small vignettes, each based around a different couple. Former ‘Bake Off’ doyenne Mel Giedroyc gives a masterclass in the comic possibilities of passive-aggression as Sarah, married to Gavin Spokes’s schlubby Harry.

Formerly straight couple Paul and Amy become gay couple Paul and Jamie. Perhaps it’s a nod to the popular theory the entire musical is an allegory for gay relationships; more probably it’s just a sensible update now that gay marriage is a thing. Whatever the case, it’s an opportunity for a terrifically funny turn of hyperventilating self-loathing from Jonathan Bailey, as Jamie.

And of course, there’s Patti LuPone. Look: relatively speaking, the Lloyd Webber-loathing Broadway legend does not do a huge amount. In the role of Bobbie’s extremely Patti LuPone-ish older friend Joanne, she basically sasses sporadically for two-ish hours before being deployed like a 50-megaton bomb just before the end. But her half-wistful, half-raging, devastating-but-not-hammy take on ‘The Ladies Who Lunch’ is exactly as good as you hope it will be. It is a show-stopper – but not a show-stealer. Craig’s wallflower Bobbie doesn’t dominate the stage, but she owns it, ambivalent in her red dress.

Following the NT’s grandiose ‘Follies’ last year, this ‘Company’ is another easy case for the greatness of Sondheim, the man they literally call God. But a serious word for Marianne Elliott: she may not have killed Bobby-with-a-’y’ for good, but this production deserves to go down as a game-changer.

By: Andrzej Lukowski

Posted:

Venue name: Gielgud Theatre
Contact:
Address: 35-37
Shaftesbury Avenue
London
W1D 6AR
Transport: Rail/Tube: Charing Cross; Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Price: £25-£124.50. Runs 2hr 40min
Static map showing venue location

Average User Rating

3.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:6
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|14
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tastemaker

Gielgud theatre is now showing Company with some well-known names in the cast such Rosalie Craig leads as Bobbie, Mel Giedroyc, Jonathan Bailey. They all play brilliantly.

It's a story about a gorgeous and single 35 years old Bobbie surrounded by friends who are all coupled-up. She is struggling to figure out what the future holds for her in her personal life. Is she happy? 
All her friends are fussed around her being unmarried and at the same time she is trying to understand whether they are actually happy... and it appears that not entirely and not always. But it's normal, isn't it? I don't know and neither does she! I'm with you, Bobbie. The question she asks herself if she is willing to compromise. So Bobbie, as a modern Alice in Wonderland, exploring a set of sliding rooms so she could see under the magnifying glass if her dreams of a married life should come true or not.There is no answer to that, as you can imagine. It seems to be like a simple story line and at the same time very philosophical. It is actually questioning if we really understand ourselves and if we are comfortable in our own skin. And it's done in an easy playful way with some music, humour, lovely singing and playing and dancing. 

5 stars all the way!

tastemaker

I am a huge HUGE Sondheim's fan and can probably quote you most of his plays/musicals and songs ad verbatim. Was so looking forward to Company since I found out it's coming o the Westend and boy... did it deliver!


If you'e familiar with the story, you'd know that it is an allegory to gay relationships and this version by Marrianne Elliot includes a gay couple. The original is about Bobby celebrating his 40th birthday wheres this is about our Bobbie celebrating her 35th. It's a bit odd considering this day and age that a woman should REALLY be settled down and married by 35.


This doesn't get n any way of the brilliant play.


Sondheim is an astute human behaviour observer and reveals the different facets, lays and intensity of it in his plays - in songs, dialogues and stories. Bobbie is neither happy nor unhappy being Single at any age, to the major disdains o her friends. Her friends are well meaning and they meddling varies from pave aggressive to dreadfully aggressive.


Her friends commit to being in a relationship - but the definition of *being* n a *relationship* is questionable and they themselves are constantly challenging and negotiating their place in the *unions*. We see that her friends are in different stages of relationships and we ask how could they themselves fail to see that they are not happy themselves and yet want to force the concept on her. Is t because being in a couple is safer, more secure or as Victoria Beckham said stronger? Or is it because if they are miserable in there coupled lives, Bobbie should experience this misery as well.


One is money and two is boring.


There is no resolution to Bobbie's situation and Sondheim intended it to be that way. Just as there is constant struggle in the other relationships. Sondheim hissed didn't fall in love until he's 60 and just maybe we will get anther play and musical of falling in love at 60 - I'm looking forward to it!


This production s sleek, clever, wonderful with brilliant cast, The singing and acting are superfluous. They may not be any familiar evocative singable tunes ala Lloyd Webber which in itself is an achievement. A very intelligent and *adult* play and to be savoured by the discerning!




Brings the comedy back to musical comedies! Company proves to be a fantastic evening out, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and some achingly candid - but hilarious - representations of what it means to be a young adult in a big city. The cast is great; the soundtrack full of energy and humour (keep an eye out for the Easter egg of birthday hats on the orchestra once the birtday scene comes up!). The décor itself is an impressive sort of Tetris-style arrangement of blocks that are often one (or part of a) room and move about the stage as they rearrange themselves to make way for further scenes. Add to that a touching story and very. very likeable characters, and don't forget the show-stopping scene where the gay couple is about to get married!

All in all, hardly a revolution in the world of musicals, but definitely one of the best nights out on the West End at the moment.

tastemaker

A nice new musical about Bobbi, a 35-year old single woman who is surrounded by married friends who keep on asking her why she isn't married too. Rosalie Craig was superb playing this funny character, witnessing the flawed couples her friends are forming. Nothing very new with the plot, and music could have been better but a few very funny moments: the pre-marriage scene and the scene of Bobbi in bed with her handsome but dumb boyfriend were enjoyable. The Gielgud on its own is absolutely beautiful too so that makes it a nice theatre to go out!

tastemaker

Being a fan of musicals, I had high expectations about this show but I must say that it didn't fulfill it. 

The show was witty but the whole storytelling felt forced. The music did not help too. There was hardly any catchy tunes. 

The first half felt a little slow, so I was hoping for the 2nd half to be better - No, it didn't unfortunately. The best part of the show was the scene at the gay couple's apartment. It was very energetic, funny and the acting was superb. I felt like watching a really enjoyable Hollywood sit com for a moment.

Overall, I think there are better musicals in the West End than this one.

tastemaker

Yes, yes, yes and more yes! 


Company is modern, connectable, fun, engaging, and supremely well-cast. For the most basic analogy, it's Will & Grace, meets Friends, meets West Side Story. In reality, it's one of the best-crafted shows in the West End for years, from the re-write of theoriginal story to the staging and the performances. 


Magnificent from beginning to end. Absolutely loved it! 



tastemaker

If you're a fan of Sondheim's work you'll absolutely love this version of Company, if not you might find it funny but with an aftertaste of meh.


In this gender-bent production of Company Bobby is now Bobbi, and on her 35th birthday she's confronted by her friends that want her to get her life together and get married. What follows is a series of scenes with her married friends where we can see the bizarre relationship they have together, leaving Bobbi wonder why she should get married, and scenes with her ex- and current lovers, until she realises that she is ready to be married. Standout performances by Jonathan Bailey, who absolutely smashed the quick lyrics of "Getting  Married Today", and Patti Lupone, delivering Joanne's dry and witty comebacks flawless. The acting was so good that I left the theater feeling anxious about not being married yet (and probably would have felt that way even if I were!).

tastemaker

A really funny performance with a lot of talent on stage. Perhaps the central element of the plot (the fact she is not married at 35 and all of her friends are) is a bit outdated, or perhaps the performance was aimed at 30-somethings. There were a couple of very funny standout moments and it was very light-hearted, if not chock-full of memorable musical-numbers. It was an enjoyable evening out and I would recommend it at the price the tickets are currently going for. 


Funny! The pre wedding scene deserves 5 stars! The rest felt a little too directed at the 30 somethings. Rosalie Craig was amazing in her role! She felt very natural right down to her facial expressions and body language! Mel Gielgud was hilarious with her stepford wife’s like faces! The audience went nuts for Patti LuPone but I felt her character was out of place and unnecessary. The music didn’t seem memorable. I laughed and enjoyed it. Well worth seeing!

tastemaker

I went to see Company just few days ago! One glance at the symmetry, the starkness, the midnight-black palette that dominates the stage, and you feel like putting on a sweater. It’s surely no coincidence that the clear modules that serve as furniture resemble ice cubes. Bobby is a New Yorker on the eve of his 35th birthday, and a woman who thinks that marriage is not just a word but a sentence – a jail sentence. It comes with a large dollop of irony. It may be set 40 years ago, but it feels frighteningly modern. There is enough star voltage in the cast to blow the mains ring of the Crucible, and everybody gets a chance to shine. I would recommend to go and see it for sure!

Tastemaker

TLDR: The new production of Company is slick, well-performed and offers some laugh-out-loud moments - but it’s source material is flawed and may fail to keep your attention.

I knew very little about Company before the current London production. I’d heard of the song “Ladies who Lunch” - but mainly in the context of a Desperate Housewives episode (all named after Sondheim songs, FYI).

Had anyone asked me what I thought it was about, I would’ve assumed a Theatre Company - something akin to A Chorus Line, or Fame.

How wrong I was. The titular Company is in fact companionship - feeling less alone due to the presence of someone else, and specifically a spouse.

Bobbie, our protagonist, is a 35-year old New Yorker. The lone singleton in a sea of coupled-up friends, her 35th Birthday Party provides a central theme amidst a series of vignettes: there is no traditional “plot”. Unlike in Bridget Jones, Bobbie’s friends aren’t your typical “smug marrieds”. Instead, they have their own quirks and issues, that become clearer through Bobbie’s presence as the welcome third wheel.

Watching it today, it’s difficult to imagine how genre-busting Sondheim’s Musical was in the 1970s. People visited the theatre to escape into a world of make-believe, and instead now their daily own problems were the subject matter. Marriage is put under the microscope here, and there is no traditional happy ending. Bobby was initially a male character, but has been switched for this production - a decision that feels pertinent and natural.

I thoroughly enjoyed Company. This production is neon bright and feels fresh. Rosalie Craig is a strong linchpin as Bobby - simultaneously empathic and frustrating. The performances throughout are excellent, in fact, and I would go so far as to say that there isn’t a weak link among them.

Patti LuPone is a crowd-pleaser. I can’t say I’m particularly familiar with her work, (I wasn’t in the crowd at the stage door!), but she played her part with gusto.

The staging is innovative - often funny in and of itself - while the constantly moving set adds a sense of motion and connectivity to an otherwise patchwork plot.

For me, it’s in the source material itself, that Company stutters. The scenes, while thought-provoking and funny, often don’t hang together satisfyingly. Loose ends abound, and while it’s enjoyable at the time, it leaves no lasting impression. In fact, the last twenty minutes really began to drag.

This isn’t helped along by Sondheim’s soundtrack, which is his usual staccato and jarring melée. The lyrics are witty, but after an hour or two your ears begin to feel assaulted.

These weaknesses aside, however: I laughed, I empathised, I winced - and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. See it while you can - because I’m not sure any other production would be quite this fun!

Tastemaker

I have not seen an audience engage quite so energetically with a theatre show since the Les Mis 30th anniversary gala performance. This was one of the very early previews, and to get a reaction like they did is just amazing 


The story focused around Bobbi, a 35 year old, single woman, who had numerous friends, but at times couldn't quite work out if they're a help or a hindrance to her life. 


The Sondheim music wasn't all my cup of tea. The Director, Marianne Elliot, was sat two rows in front of us taking notes  -seeing what worked and what didn't, I guess!


Best song - sung by the gay couple. 100%. It was fab to see Patti LuPone on stage as well, even though she didn't have such a main part, she was still great! The set was fantastic and modern, with neon lights, and moving boxes creating the rooms. Go and see this!

tastemaker

The second night preview was a big success. The audience couldn't quite decide whether to applaude sitting down, standing up or with hands held high. It was joyous. The director, Marianne Elliott (of Curious Incident etc fame) stood on the stage before curtain up semi-apologising in case anything went wrong. It didn't! She sat two rows in front taking notes; should this stay or be axed. She said it was still evolving. Well, it looked pretty good from where I was sitting. The music, as you would expect, is very Sondheim. The set is technically clever and sometimes very clever. The cast are fabulous. I didn't know Mel Giedroyc could sing! There are a couple of major changes to the original; the lead is now female (good in her rôle but not very good) and one of the couples is gay. For me, the highlight of the show is a song rendered by one of the gay men. So many words delivered with such panache.

Story-line - should a thirty-five year old woman be married or remain single? Which would make her happier and what advice is she given? All good stuff.

tastemaker

Being a HUGE Company fan, I was delighted to get tickets for opening night of this new West End Production - and I didn't leave disappointed! This modern take on this musical left our sides sore from laughing. The staging was ace, the music was solid (although not the best I've heard) and Patti Lupone was everything I wanted her to be!My only slight critic was Rosaline Craig as the lead didn't really work for me - she is solid in the role but lacked the extra magic that the rest of the cast had. Maybe it was just opening night jitters! I'll defo be back before the run finishes,

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