Like most Sondheim nuts, I've been biting my nails in anticipation for the recording of the brand-new West End revival of the musical "Company."
"Company" was a musical, in a variety of ways, to break the barriers on Broadway when it first premiered in 1970. Deemed a "concept-musical," "Company" doesn't have a fully formed chronological storyline. Instead, small vignettes tell the story with one character showing up in all of them, our main character Bobby.
Bobby is a thirty-five-year-old single man who happens to only have married friends and is unable to commit to any steady relationship. Hilarity ensues.
This has always been a favorite musical of mine (my favorite version being the 2006 Broadway revival starring Raul Esparza) and has been a show that I've seen as one of Stephen Sondheim's best works. I was excited to hear that they were reviving it in London, and even more excited to know that there would be one major change: Bobby, the single bachelor was now going to be Bobbie, the single bachelorette, portrayed by British actress Rosalie Craig.
Upon the first listen, I was almost immediately hit in the face with the sudden lyric changes. With a gender-swapped main character, changes are bound to happen. "Have I Got a Girl For You" becomes "Have I Got a Guy For You." When Bobby sings about his female friends in "Someone Is Waiting," Bobbie sings of her male friends ("crazy Amy" becomes "handsome Larry").
My initial nervousness about this production had withered away by the first few tracks. Rosalie Craig's Bobbie is as wonderful as I hoped for her to be. My only sadness over this production is the heteronormative characterization the creative team put upon Bobbie. In my honest opinion, it would have made sense Bobby's girlfriend hip, street-smart girlfriend Marta would have made more sense to have been a lesbian in this production (showing Bobbie's "experimental" side), but instead becomes PJ. The character April (now Andy) is the stereotypical ditzy-blonde type, and I'm not sure how much I bought the male counterpart. Of course, I'm only taking this from what I've heard on the album, so maybe it works better onstage.
The other performances on this album are simply wonderful. The characters of Jamie and Paul (formerly Amy and Paul) portrayed by Jonathan Bailey and Alex Gaumond were prominent standouts. And, of course, the ever-perfect Patti LuPone as Joanne floored me with her performance of "Ladies Who Lunch." The newly-revamped orchestrations also became a favorite of mine, somehow modernizing the originals without ruining them.
But the stand-out, as I expected, was Rosalie Craig's gorgeous version of the finale, "Being Alive." Quite possibly my favorite musical theatre song ever, alongside "A New Brain's" "And They're Off" and "Carousel's" "If I Loved You", I couldn't resist singing along to Craig's version (which was finally in a key that I could sing). Her performance as Bobbie truly came through in this song, finally coming to terms with her desires.
To conclude, I was greatly impressed and intrigued by this album. I hope for an American transfer soon, so I can see this production live and onstage, to get a true feeling of appreciation for this production. I hope to see some awards racked up for this production as well, and wouldn't be surprised if Rosalie Craig won them all. I would definitely recommend "Company" to any Sondheim fan interested in what lengths his shows can go in storytelling.