What age was difficult for you, dear reader? 20? 30? 50? At some point in our lives, there’s one age that seems to hit us harder than the rest. For some, it’s that there are fewer years ahead of us than there are behind. However, for others, it’s the realization that goals they’ve had set for themselves have never come to fruition. Perhaps you thought you’d have a house by 20 or married by 30. It’s this latter camp that Company is set, with a musical exploring the grief of unachieved dreams.
Originally created by Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) with the story from George Furth back in the 1970s, Company explored marriage, divorce, and the ups and downs of dating in modern-day New York City. However, when the musical was revived West End in 2018, it featured a few changes that updated Company from the 70s to today. The most significant change was the gender swapping of a few characters, specifically the main one, Bobby (Bobbie in the revival). It’s this updated production that’s now making its way through a North American tour.
So should you check out Company when it makes a stop in a city near you? Continue on to find out!
[Warning: Spoilers from Company: The North American Tour are below.]
The story of the musical Company
When we first meet Bobbie (Britney Coleman), it’s in her apartment. She just arrived home with a large balloon in the shape of the number 35, and a bottle of alcohol. Audience members get a glimpse into the entryway of her apartment, which features a door, a coat rack, and a dining room table. It’s impossible to see the extent of her entire apartment, but from the room seen from the small moving box, it feels tiny. Settling down at her table, Bobbie begins listening to all the messages from her friends, wishing her a happy birthday.
As she goes through the messages, her friends begin to appear on stage, planning a surprise birthday party for her. All of her friends are paired off and from the way they talk to her, it’s obvious they believe that she should be as well. They excitedly ask her to blow out her candles, which she fails to do. Her friends tell her that she’ll still get her wish, however, Bobbie tells them she didn’t wish for anything. She has her friends, what more could she want?
Company then shifts to a series of vignettes, which don’t have a natural narrative, but instead continue Bobbie’s journey through relationship exploration. This is done through interactions between her and other couples in her life. By talking to couples such as Sarah (Kathryn Allison) and Harry (James Earl Jones II), the first couple who speaks with, Bobbie explores the highs and lows of a relationship.
For Sarah and Harry, it’s apparent that both are unhappy with their relationship and life, using food and alcohol as coping mechanisms. Both Sarah and Harry attempt to reject their vices, becoming increasingly more passive-aggressive with each other. Eventually, the tension builds until both give in to the bourbon and brownies, but the damage is already done. Bobbie’s left with an odd look at what it means to be a couple, moving on to the next vignette.
The message of dissatisfaction in relationships is present in each couple she comes across. Susan (Marina Kondo) and Peter (Javier Ignacio) appear as the ideal couple to Bobbie, who is thrown for a loop when the couple announces they’re getting a divorce. David (played by the understudy Matthew Christian) and Jenny (Emma Stratton) initially seem happy, but their relationship also has some cracks. Jenny’s the stronger of the two personalities and seems to resent David for his meek personality.
Jamie (Matt Rodin) is struggling with his impending marriage to Paul (Ali Louis Bourzgui), which results in him calling off the wedding minutes before he’s due to walk down the aisle. However, he reverses that after talking to Bobbie. The final couple is Joanne (Judy McLane) and Larry (Derrick Davis), who are on two sides of the “in love” spectrum. Larry is supportive and endearing, while Joanne comes off as jaded and disenchanted with the concept of love.
Interspersed between the vignettes of the couples are three more, exploring Bobbie’s relationships with men and how they’ve impacted her life. Theo (David Socolar) appears to be the one who got away, someone who became a friend even though at times both wanted more. Theo’s stable, a scholar, and the ideal supportive partner. PJ (Tyler Hardwick) is more wild, unpredictable. He’s the one who brings out the passionate side of Bobbie, showing her the reasons to live in the moment. And then there’s lovable doofus Andy (Jacob Dickey), a flight attendant who is hot, but lacks the substance that Bobbie is craving from a partner.
Throughout the two acts, Bobbie explores all of these relationships, having to decide for herself how important a relationship is and if she’s happy with the life she’s leading now. Everything comes together in the final song of Company, where Bobbie confronts these feelings and sets forth onto a new path for her next 35 years.
The positives and negatives of Company: Detroit show vs Broadway
Last year, I was able to go to New York City and take in a slew of shows over the course of a week, Company being one of them. So when viewing the North American Tour show, I felt like I had a unique perspective. I didn’t know much about the show prior to seeing it on Broadway, so I couldn’t compare it to the original. But being able to see how the show in Detroit chalks up to the one from Broadway was something I felt uniquely qualified for.
When I saw it in New York, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Company. It was not the typical show I might have been drawn to, but I walked away unbelievably satisfied. The version I saw in Detroit is even better. It is no exaggeration when I say that the Company I saw last week is leagues better than the one I saw in NYC.
Britney Coleman is a powerhouse who takes Company by storm. I remember being impressed with her talent when I saw Beetlejuice the Musical in February. While in that show she played an integral part of the ensemble of cast members, in Company, she’s the star and this is her show.
Coleman does a wonderful job balancing the heavy burden of aging and life expectations, which she presents through humor and fear. It was hard to take my eyes off of her in nearly every scene, as she conveyed so many emotions just by using her face. She has fantastic chemistry with all of her cast mates, bringing a lighter tone to character, compared to the harsher and colder Bobbie I saw in New York. Coleman’s final song, “Being Alive” perfectly captures all the nuances of Bobbie and showcases just how stellar she is in this role.
The entire cast is top-notch, with excellent performances from all. However, the characters of Jamie and Paul stood out to me for a plethora of reasons. Sure, it’s nice to see a same-sex couple in the revival. Something that his version of Company does well is including a better representation of minorities. Seeing a couple that I myself can picture myself in helped to bring me into the show, a sentiment I’m sure others share.
That being said, Ali Louis Bourzgui as Paul and Matt Rodin as Jamie are fantastic. The two give it their all, with both having singing parts that grabbed my attention. Bourzgui’s low register in a few of the songs was intoxicating, but the loveable doe eyes he gives Jamie were even more so. However, Matt Rodin’s part of Jamie has to be a highlight of the entire show. “Getting Married Today” is a fast-paced song, one that I have tried to sing along with and gotten tongue-tied. Rodin easily crushes the song, endearing themselves as both an amazing actor and a talented star. Rodin and Bourzgui are both on my to-watch list from this point on and I cannot wait to see where they go from here.
Of the three love interests, dopey Andy melted my heart, with Jacob Dickey giving an exceptional performance. Some may assume it’s easy to play the hot but stupid guy, but it takes someone special to sell that without feeling overdone. Dickey does that. There are moments where I want to roll my eyes at a dumb comment that comes out of his mouth, but then I can’t help but laugh and get drawn back into his performance. Tyler Hardwick also stood out during “Another Hundred People”, although his part is relatively small and it leaves you craving more.
Besides the story and acting, some of the ways they pulled off the on-stage magic were crazy and impressed me quite a bit. There’s one scene in particular where there are a ton of Bobbies on stage, imagining a life with Jamie blew my mind. The way they got pieces moved around so the sequence could play out over and over was amazing. There was a lot of traditional misdirection in which they did it, but it worked flawlessly.
Speaking of pieces moving around, the moving segments of all the different stages were breathtaking. Some stages would move from the back out of nowhere and join into existing pieces. At other times big pieces would descend from the ceiling or appear out of nowhere. It wasn’t as magical as the stage on Broadway, which had pieces that came from the floor or had lighted stage pieces that this one lacked, but it still moved fluidly. There were times when I would make the mental note it was different, but not that it was worse.
Even with the updated version, some pieces feel outdated. The concept feels universal in so many ways, but also one rooted in the past. I suppose part of that depends on how important relationships are for audience members, who may attach a different weight to them. As well, the disjointed vignettes may not be for everyone. I’ll be honest, when I first saw the musical in New York, I was slightly confused by the feel of it. Think fever dream and you have Company in a nutshell. However when you can separate it from the idea that a musical needs a flowing narrative, Company is one of the best out there.
Final thoughts on Company and its North American tour
I can recognize that this musical might not be for everyone, but I think those who choose to go and check it out will be pleasantly surprised. The talent present in the cast is off the charts. Seriously, you may not see this caliber of acting in every touring show. So if you’re just a little bit curious about Company, I implore you to check it out when it comes to a city near you.
Company is currently touring North America, with a few shows left on its current stop in Detroit! Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on checking it out!