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Not seen in West End since 1995, Company is now back in London like you’ve never seen it before.
Stephen Sondheim and George Firth’s 1970 musical comedy has been given a makeover by acclaimed director Marianne Elliott, replacing the central role of Bobby – a single, 35-year-old man – with Bobbie, a single, 35-year-old woman.
Girlfriends become boyfriends as Bobbie, unable to fully commit to a steady relationship, relies on her married friends for advice (or is forced to take it, in some cases), through a series of short vignettes.
Bobbie is surprised on her 35th birthday by the five married couples who are her best friends. From here, Bobbie relives a number of previous interactions with her friends – presented in no particular chronological order – which force her to reflect on how she has ended up unmarried and alone.
We also meet Bobbie’s three most recent boyfriends – Andy, Theo and PJ (renamed from April, Marta and Kathy in the original) – who each give her further reason to assess her current situation and the state of her friends’ marriages.
Rosalie Craig, last seen in the West End in hit play The Ferryman, plays the central role of Bobbie. She leads an incredible cast, which includes Broadway legend Patti LuPone, actress and presenter Mel Giedroyc, Jonathan Bailey, Richard Fleeshman, Alex Gaumond, Ben Lewis, Gavin Spokes, Matthew Seadon-Young and Daisy Maywood.
George Blagden, Ashely Campbell, Richard Henders and Jennifer Saayeng round out the cast.
Marianne Elliott’s female-led production of Company feels so right, so modern, so original, that’s it’s almost impossible to actually imagine the show having worked previously with a male protagonist.
This, in large part, is down to her incredible cast.
Craig is marvellous as Bobbie, living the role in a way that feels impossible to match. Her facial expressions (as she experiences the lives of her married friends, the fights and the squabbles, the make-ups and the reconciliations) are wonderful, and her voice when she sings is technically flawless, especially in numbers such as Someone is Waiting, Marry Me a Little and the iconic Being Alive – all of which are staged so that she has full command of the stage; this is a leading lady of epic proportions.
Elsewhere, Broadway legend LuPone is predictably fantastic, bringing to the role of Joanne – Bobbie’s most cynical friend – a surprisingly restrained performance, so that when it comes to her biggest number in the second half of the show (The Ladies Who Lunch), she delivers a devastatingly powerful performance that only goes to remind the audience what a consummate professional she is. It is, in short, a joy to watch her.
Aside from the acting, Elliott’s direction is sharp and focused, giving the musical a modern Sex and the City vibe that really works. Liam Steel’s choreography is sublime, especially in act two opener Side by Side by Side / What Would We Do Without You?, while Bunny Christie’s set design is breathtakingly clever, switching between New York apartments with an incredible ease that falls somewhere between the inventiveness of previous Elliott and Christie collaboration The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Lewis Carroll’s most ardent fever dreams.
Company is a wonderful night out at the theatre, and is a dazzling treat of a show that is sure to win every award going next season – you simply can’t afford to miss it.
★★★★★ – The Stage
★★★★★ – The Telegraph
★★★★★ – WhatsOnStage
★★★★★ – Broadway World
★★★★ – The Guardian
Company is now open at London’s Gielgud Theatre until 30 March 2019.
Get your tickets for Company now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.