Updated: Sep 28, 2019
Who’d have thought that gender swapping roles in a 1970’s musical would make it feel fresh and modern but that’s what it’s managed to do. Company starts with single female Bobbie arriving home on her 35th birthday and over the course of the 2 hours we get to see her struggles with societal pressures for marriage vs desire for freedom and her hunger for life. Other than this though there isn’t a plot as such just several scenarios, non of which are really resolved in any way.
The show starts well with Bobbie’s neon bordered box apartment from where she can look out onto her life before her life becomes claustrophobic for her and she is able to escape. The story then follows Bobbie as she interacts with each of her coupled friends and the people she is dating. Each of the couples show you their problems one by one while they are telling Bobbie she needs to settle down.
The issues each couple have in their own relationships are not subtle and the number of couple they show this for gets repetitive and could be more nuanced. Because of this there were certainly parts of the show which sagged, particularly in the second act. And in these depictions of troubled marriages I don’t feel Sondheim’s just down on marriage but down on people in general.
The show has some superb moments. Jonathan Bailey’s depiction of fear and anxiety about marriage is both flawless and comedic genius (and he has rightly been nominated awards for this role) and is worth the ticket money by itself. I hope to see more of him in future.
The set is excellent and the set up of scenes in neon framed boxes allows Bobbie to literally walk out the scene and view a tableaux from afar.
I also have to mention the choreography. “Another Hundred People” has an interesting and fabulous array of people riding the subway with numerous imagined links and encounters. And when we get to “Tick Tock” Bobbie looks on in horror as she sees how her life could be with multiple Bobbies making their way around the room depicting several mundane moments. Again it’s perfectly choreographed.
The acting in the show as a whole is superb and Rosalie Craig is wonderful in this role. I can see why this was a male part in the 1970’s but today it feels more natural to be female role. Currently although there is a view people can live their lives as they wish to there is still more pressure on women to be married and to be having babies. In that regard it feels like women are where men were at in the 1970’s. It’s great that Stephen Sondheim approved and assisted with this change which really brings it to life. I appreciated that Bobbie is never shown as lonely, despite it being everyone else’s perception that she would be.
There is also one scene from the second act that, in the #MeToo era, may have been difficult to portray without having reversed genders.
I did find the casting of Patti Lupone a little strange. Obviously she’s a fantastic actor with an amazing voice but she seemed constrained in this role. Though it’s not a dance show there was choreography and she was clearly uncomfortable with this. Though when Patti Lupone is the weak link it tells you something about the quality of the cast.
I didn’t know the music for this beforehand and I very much enjoyed the music in it and it was this that stood out for me most. I don’t know if I’ll be a full Sondheim fan in future but I certainly am a fan of this music. Despite the fact the story could be sharper the music and acting ensure this is a solid 4 Laura Michelle-Kelly star show.
It’s on until the end of March and tickets are available here https://tickets.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/index.asp?ShoID=2341