Gielgud Theatre, London – until 30 March 2018
Written by a New Yorker about fellow New Yorkers, Stephen Sondheim’s Company is arguably best played to New Yorkers too. The songs are legendary, but amidst Marianne Elliott’s company’s well-rehearsed accents (Patti LuPone excluded, she oozes Americana) there’s something missing from this slice of Big Apple life. Perfectly polished for sure, but it’s a tough gig to convincingly re-create Manhattan’s milieu on Shaftesbury Avenue.
In a much-heralded gender swap, this revival sees Rosalie Craig plays the angst-fuelled Bobbie, celebrating her 35th birthday amidst the alarm of her coterie of married buddies that she is still unmarried. Sondheim’s song cycle of a show charts her odyssey through a cityscape of dating and domestic dysfunctionality – and if the writer’s barbed observations on life veer from the cliched to the piercingly perceptive, this production delivers his songs and score magnificently.
Elliott stages the piece well as Bobbie flits from couple to couple through Bunny Christie’s ingenious set tableaux that glide across the stage, capturing the monolithic greyness of the city’s apartment blocks perfectly. Above the stage, Joel Fram’s orchestra is sublime.
With a cast drawn mostly from the British industry’s finest the show is lavishly staged with the high production values. A male trio sings and dances divinely through ‘You Could Drive A Person Crazy’, evidencing Liam Steel’s classy choreography which is magnificent again in the second half opener of ‘Side By Side By Side’.
The red-maned Craig is gifted the lion’s share of the songs and as her Bobbie lurches through a nightmare of neuroses, Craig’s take on Sondheim’s classics is flawless. Indeed, sung by a woman both ‘Marry Me A Little’ and ‘Being Alive’ are gifted an intriguingly fresh nuance.
But for all the re-casted and re-scripted ingenuity on display, it is down to Broadway legend Patti LuPone’s Joanne to deliver the evening’s unmissable moment. There’s probably no finer solo to be found in the West End as she drawls and drinks her way through the tour de force that is The Ladies Who Lunch. Lupone’s devastating delivery proves a caustic cocktail and rarely is a role so immaculately tailored to the performer.
An evening at Company is unquestionably fine theatre. Everybody rise.
Booking until 30th March 2019Photo credit: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg