Patti Lupone, Katrina Lenk (Matthew Murphy)
By Fern Siegel
Sondheim went out on a high note: a Broadway revival of Company, an
off-Broadway revival of Assassins and the Steven Spielberg-directed film
West Side Story.
tweaked the beloved movie musical a bit, and so did Sondheim and Marianne Elliott
in the latest version of Company, now at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater.
playbill doesn’t cite a new writer, but George Furth’s original book has been updated.
The plus in the ensemble cast is Patti Lupone’s Joanne, who drips with well-timed
venom and upstages everyone just by opening her mouth. Her “Ladies Who Lunch”
number is a literal showstopper.
score remains wonderful and insightful, given its wry, world-weary observations
on relationships, but the premise may seem dated. In Company’s 1970
debut, a 35-year-old bachelor with a lot of Upper East Side married friends
seems plausible. Now, a disconnected person can still take an emotional journey
and discover the pluses to companionship, but by altering gender, turning Bobby
into Bobbie (Katrina Lenk) as the 2021 revival does, it shifts into more
a woman, repeatedly, that she must be married sounds far more
anti-feminist than suggesting a man find a suitable mate. The pressure to wed
has traditionally been more acute for women than men, who can be older than
their intendeds without anyone questioning their choices.
what of the talented Tony-winning Katrina Lenk? She was incandescent in The
Band’s Visit and Indecent and can belt out a number with genuine
feeling. But here, she is either miscast – or more likely – misdirected.
Lenk (Matthew Murphy)
director posits Bobbie in an Alice in Manhattan guise. She is trapped in
subways, tiny apartments or unfulfilled personal relationships where neither
she, nor the men she dates, get her. That includes Claybourne Elder, who acts
stupid/clueless with a kind of sweet charm. And in a fantasy/nightmare scene,
her biological clock is ticking.
character has always been something of a cypher, on the outside looking in, eyeing
the prospect of marriage with cynicism and doubt. She examines her friends in
various stages of commitment — marriages that appear frayed, one that breaks
and a gay couple about to take the plunge. Like her former male counterpart,
she weighs the pros and cons, eventually deciding there are more reasons to
commit than going it alone.
Lenk doesn’t seem fully engaged in the process. Dressed in red palazzo pants and
a sleeveless top, she relies more on facial expressions to signal her
intentions. That may be Elliott’s failure to fully utilize Lenk’s considerable range.
She doesn’t appear to hunger for connection, despite her shrinking apartment
set, which suggests if she doesn’t click soon, she’ll loose all sense of
Company, with its updated lyrics and visual references, seems more
disjointed that the 2006 revival with Raul Esparza. It’s hard to believe all
these people are friends — or even know each other.
martinis and multi-marital barbs don’t fit with the younger couples, such as Harry
(Christopher Sieber) and Sarah (Jennifer Simard), who badly hide their
addictions to drink and food in one of the audience favorites “The Little
Things You Do Together,” sung by Lupone. (“Concerts we enjoy together/Neighbors
we annoy together/Children we destroy together,” that make perfect
Matt Doyle as Jamie nails the “Getting Married Today,” a super-fast song where
it takes enormous breath control and vocal articulation to release all the
pent-up emotion. But he and his partner seem to exist in a world all their own.
that’s the catch to Company, which doesn’t tell a linear story. It
relies on vignettes and character sketches to explore a deeper theme: the value
of personal connection. That theme is relevant in every era, though its
presentation must have seemed new and decidedly different in 1970.
the show takes place in a series of neon-lit boxes (Bobbie’s apartment), a bar,
street scene, balcony, living room, bedroom and kitchen. Sets and costumes are
by Bunny Christie and the lighting designer is Neil Austin.
Company has something to
say; it’s all in how you say it. Elliott is blessed with a solid cast and a
show that contains many prized songs, including “Being Alive,” the astounding
crescendo that ends the production. It’s a rousing number that reminds us of
the value of human connection, even if relationships are complicated, filled as
much with love as ambivalence. Or as Sondheim’s explained the nuances, we’re
It may not
be the best revival, but the score, like Lupone’s shining moments, are still
Company – Bernard B. Jacobs
Theater 242 W 45 St
Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes