Profound, Refreshing, Brilliant
It's profoundly refreshing to see Company not just as the famous score and witty one liners, but for it to place itself slap bang in the middle of 2018's debate, whilst still excelling at all the elements one needs for a truly brilliant musical.
Please note that this is a review of Company when our London reviewer saw it in the West End!
In a production that could be dubbed an "Instagrammer's dream" Company explodes back onto the stage! This time though it's a magical gender-swapped revamp of the classic Sondheim musical. From the first lyric of "Bobbie" filtering onto the stage, Sondheim's genius is given room to shine and this star-studded revival executes Sondheim's famous disregard for a 'typical' score with perfection.
Bobbie is celebrating her 35th birthday with a surprise party courtesy of her friends, all taking place in a set comprised of a multitude of brightly illuminated boxes. As the party continues Bobbie comes under fire as her married counterparts question her decision to have not yet gotten hitched. With the box of monogamy squeezing Bobbie tighter and tighter the audience is taken on a journey through the highs and lows of one of the world's oldest rights of passage, marriage.
Now any theatre fan should know who Patti LuPone is but few may have seen her live, and let me tell you she is the worth the ticket price. Graceful, serene and powerful, LuPone commands the stage with such a presence that you are left needing more. LuPone's rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch" blew the roof of the Gielgud and shows exactly why she is so renowned. Her comic timing is perfection, her age-old Broadway vocals leave you with goosebumps, and although she remained seated throughout the scene, LuPone still keeps you enthralled from the first moment she appears to when she leaves. Not one eye moved from her. And yet, with all this power behind her, LuPone seemingly melted into the background to become one of the 'company' once again, and this is what makes her a true theatrical legend.
However, in an age where women are increasingly less restrained by their stereotypical gender roles, perhaps the decision to make Bobbie female raises some questions. It is certainly refreshing to see a woman on stage, not tied down to a man and who is free to do whatever she chooses. But as this musical strives for modernization the subject matter makes you wonder, would a modern Bobbie and her modern friends really be stressing about when a woman should settle down and start having babies? Has Elliott, in her pursuit of a modern retelling of Company, perhaps made it even more dated?
Perhaps this is exactly what Elliott and her team were striving for - to show the contradictions when it comes to the modern woman. You are no longer held down by the stereotypes but at the same time, you are still held accountable to outdated aspirations including the tradition of marriage. Perhaps this exact argument is what makes Elliott's Company engaging, compelling and completely perfect for the modern audience.
It's rare for a musical to make you think, really think, about the world that whizzes around you. Therefore, it's profoundly refreshing to see Company not just as the famous score and witty one-liners, but for it to place itself slap bang in the middle of 2018's debate, whilst still excelling at all the elements one needs for a truly brilliant musical.