WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE?: Gielgud Theatre RUNTIME: 2 hours and 35 minutes (with a 20-minute interval)
WHEN?: 28/9, press night 17/10, runs to 22/12/18 (note: now extended to 30/3/19)
Company turns 50 in 2020 and the biggest compliment we can pay this inventive reimagining with a female Bobbi is that it works so well that it’s hard to imagine with a male lead.
- Read on for reasons including how Sandi Toksvig was in the audience with us for this 4th preview
We 1st learned of director Marianne Elliott’s plan to reimagine Company at a Q&A with its writer/composer Stephen Sondheim as Follies, winner of our Best Revival monsta in 2017, was in previews at the National Theatre.
He explained then why a mooted John Tiffany version with an all-male and gay cast of characters wouldn’t work and that the mistake people often made in their interpretation of the piece was that Bobby was gay.
In this production there is a gay couple. Jonathan Bailey has arguably the stand-out song as Jamie with a frantic Getting Married Today expressing doubts over his impending nuptials with the kind Paul (Alex Gaumond, steadfast and head over heels in love).
Elliott (interviewed below) brings an Alice In Wonderland feel to the production with boxes rimmed with fluorescent light moving about the stage evoking Bobbi’s cramped apartment, as well as gigantic balloons signifying being overwhelmed by the enormity of the 35th birthday she is celebrating.
The plot, such as it is, is about a single woman celebrating a birthday with the 5 couples she is closest to, and examining how they relationships work, as well as musing over the merits, or otherwise, of the 3 significant men in her life.
The memorable staging of the songs is pure Olivier Award bait. We would have liked to see more of the legend that is Patti Lupone but her fiery character Joanne is given 1 set piece (The Ladies Who Lunch) which you won’t forget in a long time. She also has some of the script’s best withering put downs.
You Could Drive A Person Crazy sung by the 3 men in Bobbi’s life (played by Richard Fleeshman, Matthew Seadon-Young and George Blagden) is super cute.
Mel Giedroyc and Gavin Spokes inject much comedy not least during an unexpected bout of Jiu-jitsu. We also weren’t expecting Great British Bake Off host Sandi Toksvig to be sitting in our row watching 1 of her predecessors.
Such is the draw of a show which at its heart boasts a star turn from 1 of the West End’s safest pair of hands Rosalie Craig (The Ferryman, City Of Angels at the Donmar and The Light Princess at the National). Her Being Alive is a rousing conclusion to a production that should follow Elliott’s impressive back catalogue (War Horse, Curious Incident and Angels In America) to Broadway.
We’ve never seen the original and the triumph of this production is that it works so seamlessly with a female lead that it’s a concept that’s hard to imagine. Our Best Revival of 2018 list just got a new frontrunner. Closes before Christmas, don’t miss your chance to see it.