Gielgud Theatre – booking until 30 March 2019
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Company returns to the West End in a neon glow of stylish brilliance. Marianne Elliott’s gender-swapped production is contemporary, funny, smart and quite possibly genius. The naysayers who refuse to give this production a try as they bemoan “PC gone mad” are missing out on one of the best shows to open in London for years.
Working with Stephen Sondheim to create a show that has modern resonance, Marianne Elliott turns Bobby into Bobbie (the luminous Rosalie Craig), whose 35th birthday forces her to evaluate her life and her approach to relationships. Surrounded by married friends, Bobbie’s biological clock is ticking – visualised terrifyingly as she watches multiple versions of her possible future self with her boyfriends and babes in arms in Tick Tock. George Furth’s book is still instantly recognisable, with simple twists like the swapping of Jenny (Jennifer Saayeng) and David’s (Richard Henders) lines creating a more modern couple where the wife goes out to work and the husband is a stay-at-home dad. Changing the gender of best friend Amy to Jamie (Jonathan Bailey) also adds a more familiar and realistic dynamic to the group of friends in 2018.
The set is deceptively simple and stunning, with neon rooms fitting together below Joel Fram’s orchestra. There are shades of Alice in Wonderland as Bobbie feels the walls closing in on her trying to avoid her surprise birthday party, and crawls around the stage finding handy glasses of whisky.
Sondheim’s songs are sublime; this is one of those rare musicals that has no “filler” – every number is a wonder. The entire cast are phenomenal, and you may find it hard not to jump up and cheer after Every. Single. Number. Rosalie Craig is spiky, cynical, funny and vulnerable as Bobbie, and is an emotional powerhouse in Marry Me A Little and Being Alive. Patti LuPone is phenomenal as Joanne, prowling around the stage with an acerbic smirk and conveying more with an “Uh huh” than some actors can in seven verses. The Ladies Who Lunch is a masterclass in musical theatre – grabbing you by the throat and the heart and leaving you in a euphoric heap. Jonathan Bailey’s meltdown as groom-to-be Jamie is hysterically sweet and almost steals the show.
Company is proof that brilliant musicals can survive, and may need, changes to resonate even more with modern audiences. In Marianne Elliott’s hands, Company speaks to us all. And with a cast as good as this, Elliott has created theatrical perfection. This is THE must-see show of the year. Grab a ticket while you can.