Book by George Furth
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

INFO:

Opened at the Alvin Theatre   April 26, 1970   705 performances (often revived)
Original Director: Harold Prince
Original Choreographer: Michael Bennett
Original Producer: Harold Prince
Original Leads: Bobby: Dean Jones
Cast Size: Male: 6    Female: 8    Ensemble: 0    Total Cast Size: 14
Orchestra: 19, an alternative orchestration for 13 plus two optional exists. There are other options, smaller.
Published Script: Theater Communications Group; Chilton
Production Rights: MTI (Music Theater International)
Recordings: Numerous.  The original Broadway is okay, though some of the vocals are flat (in pitch) and odd.  The 2006 revival is more beautiful than the other versions.
Film: The amazing 2006 revival where the actors play instruments and accompany themselves throughout, staring Raul Esparza, was taped and is fantastic to watch. That production won the Tony for best revival of a musical. A very good version was taped in 2011 with Neil Patrick Harris.
Other shows by the authors:  Sondheim: West Side Story, Gypsy, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, Follies, A Little Night MusicSweeney Todd, Pacific Overtures, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday In The Park With George, Into The Woods, Passion, Assassins
Awards: The original was nominated for 12 Tonys and won 5, including Best Book (Furth), Director (Prince), Music & Lyrics (Sondheim), and Best Set Design (Boris Aronson)

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

A not-large cast, generally a single unit set, modern costuming…this is a relatively easy show to produce.  It is an adult show, however.  Not for High Schools.  Colleges could try it.  Great for adult Dinner Theaters, but not if the kids are coming.   Very strong piece for stock and regional houses looking to fit an easily assembled show into a busy season.  And of course, it is revived professionally all the time.

Be Warned:

A very adult musical, not for kids on stage or in the audience. An adult show about adults doing childish and adult things.

A show that has had many productions, and which exists in several versions. You may wish to check your area to see if it was done recently before selecting it.

THE STORY:

ACT ONE: (Note – There are numerous versions of Company. This breakdown is based on the 1996 published version from Theater Communications Group. Also, I’ll call the lead character “Bobby”, “Robert”, and even “Bob”, as that’s what the characters in the play do.)

Robert’s empty apartment. He listens to his answering machine. His married friends have left messages, as have several girls he’s dated. Bob is turning 35, and as we watch, his friends, five married couples, arrive with presents. It starts off almost like a ritual, inhuman and precise, but then things loosen up. The couples drink and argue, which is apparently what they often do. One friend, Peter, suggests that the new year bring him fame, fortune and his first wife. Bobby says he can do without all three. Bobby thanks his many friends. He is lucky. “I mean, when you have friends like mine…” The cake is brought in, Bobby makes a wish and blows the candles out, the friendly, busy chatter continues with Bobby the subject at hand. We get an idea of the endless flood of advice and communication and life this single man receives from his married friends. (“Company”) This is going to be a play largely about small talk, and its importance in our lives.

Sarah And Harry’s living room. This married couple and Bobby complete dinner with coffee. Harry offers Bobby a drink, but the couple do not indulge. Harry and Sarah debate how long Harry’s been on the wagon. Harry quit for good reason, having been repeatedly arrested for being drunk. Sarah endlessly corrects Harry’s telling of the tale, offering alternate details. She also critiques the fact that Bobby talks “in questions,” and Bobby does seem to work hard to keep conversations focused on the other party. Sarah offers Bobby a brownie – which she can no longer eat, so she wants to watch. She’s on a diet, and can’t have, well, food. The list of foods she can’t have escalates, and pretending to faint, she downs a brownie. Robert sees her. He sees everything. Sarah brags about the weight she’s lost. She’s studying karate in her gym. As Harry and Sarah continue to nag at each other, she offers to demonstrate a karate move on Harry, and does. As they attempt to beat up on each other in their “friendly” way, another of Bobbie’s married friends, Joanne, appears (joined by all his other friends) to comment that “It’s The Little Things We Do Together” that make marriage, well, a joy. Harry and Sarah still compete for holds and moves. Robert steps in, calls it a draw. Harry offers Robert a nightcap, which Bob almost accepts but thinks better of. Harry heads for the bar, Sarah eats another brownie and exits, as the couple express their love for each other. Bobby asks Harry if he’s ever sorry he married., and Harry (and the other married men) let Bobby know that where marriage is concerned, you’re always “Sorry-Grateful”.

Another couple’s terrace, Peter and Sarah. Th couple join Robert, and muse that NYC has hundreds of thousands of terraces, and no one is ever on one. They are a cute couple, and Bobby lets Peter know that if he ever leaves Susan, he wants to be the first to know. So…Bobby becomes the first to know. Peter and Susan are divorcing. Chagrined, Bobby departs.

Jenny and David’s den, another of Bobbie’s married couples. Toys are scattered about, they have kids. Jenny goes on and on about how she doesn’t feel anything. And we discover she’s stoned. Robert doesn’t indulge, as always, he watches. To Jenny and David, everything is now funny. Bobby watches them have fun, and says he should have married Jenny. (He says that to all his married lady friends.) Jenny asks when is Bobby going to marry, and David recommends Bobby should pass. David asks his wife if she ever wishes she could be single again, even for an hour, and she asks for two hours. Then the couple switch positions, David says a man should be married, Jenny says marriage is not for everyone. Bobby says he’s not avoiding marriage, he’s ready, but it’s avoiding him. (This is disingenuous of course.)

What worries Bobby is, once you’re married, the other person is there all the time. But he, um, wants to find someone and get married. Bobby wants to change things, and he’s currently dating a flight attendant, and two other women (who all appear), and, well, he’s ready to marry. The three women sing, telling Bobby that “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” with your inability to commit. Alone with the couple again, Jenny goes to bed, the men talk. David knows Jenny didn’t like getting stoned, even if she fooled Bobby and pretended to. She pretended to love it for David’s sake.

Bobby is suddenly surrounded by his husband friends, all of them pushing various women his way, announcing “Have I Got A Girl For You”. But Bobby feels that “Someone Is Waiting” for him out there, someone who is a kind of amalgamation of the married women he so admires. A perfect woman.

One of the women Bobby is dating, Marta, is seen in the midst of NYC, as she observes “Another Hundred People” leaving trains and buses and joining this “city of strangers.” Bobby is discovered with the stewardess, April, who shares her life story with him, claiming to have made a dumb choice, coming to New York to live. She lives with a single man, but he’s a born New Yorker, so he’s not interested bin anything, including April. It’s just a living arrangement, and if one of them got married, they’d get a bigger place. “Another Hundred People” continues.

Bobby dates Kathy. They’re at a park, and Bobby is bored. He has missed out on a party for this date. She feels out of place in NYC, and he finds that lovely. He kisses her forehead in a brotherly way, disappointing her. She tells him she came to NYC with the dream of getting married. He says she should, and she asks if he’s asking. He claims he thought about it in the beginning…but never believed she would say yes. They wanted to marry each other, and because they did not talk, they ended up friends. She lets him know she’s leaving NYC to get married. “Another Hundred People” continues.

Marta and Bobby on a date. Marta came to NYC because it is “the center of the world”, and she feels she is the pulse of the city. She stops everyone she meets and gets to know them. 14Th Street is, to Marta, the center of the Universe. And she feels (as do the other girls) that Bobby really doesn’t fit in the city.

Another day. Amy and Paul are “Getting Married Today”. But Amy is desperate to get out of it, actually going insane. (A great comic number.) She finally does back out. Why would Paul want to marry a crazy woman? She’s saving him. Robert, best man, is stuck watching this train wreck, and is dumfounded and even destructive. But Paul is quiet, patient, and simply ignores all her protests. He asks Robert to back him up, but Bobbie feels he’s the last person to tell someone they should get married. Amy is terrified, and says she’s never seen a good marriage. And she admits, finally, she does not love Paul enough to marry him. Paul leaves, and she’s alone with Bobby…who suddenly asks her to marry him. Then everyone will leave them both alone. That wakes Amy up, and she explains to Bobby that you have to want to marry somebody, not just somebody. She realizes Paul went out into the rain without a coat, and follows him, planning to go through with the wedding now.

Alone, Bobby asks someone to “Marry Me A Little”, not so much as to disturb his life, but just enough. At the end, we’re suddenly back at Bobby’s birthday party as Amy walks in with the cake. The candles are blown out.

ACT TWO: The birthday party, Robert about to blow the candles out, all five couples standing around him. They debate whether or not Bobby will get his wish. But Bobby tells them he didn’t wish for anything. They all love (or like, or admire) Bobby, and celebrate life “Side by Side by Side”, wondering “What Would I Do Without You?”

Robert’s apartment, and he’s with April. She’s in uniform, it appears to be her first visit. She admires the apartment with a bit too much enthusiasm. As the date continues, the married couples wives all consider Bobby a “Poor Baby” who needs a woman. In the apartment, April describes a failed relationship she had once. Robert then relates a tale of his own about connecting to a woman once, and going to a motel where he had impassioned sex with her. He stepped out to a liquor store, and tried to return but could not find the place. By this time, both Robert and April are ready for some love making. The wives continue to sing, even as Bobby and April hop in bed, and it’s clear they all disapprove of any girl that Bobby does date. Bobby and April make love. (“Tick-Tock”, sometimes cut, apparently.) Alone, April gets up and starts to dress. He asks where the stweardess he’s just enjoyed so much is going, and she replies “Barcelona”. He asks her to stay, assuming she will not, and to his shock and horror, she stays.

Peter and Susan are fixing up their terrace and Bobby and Marta enter. The talk is stiff, uncomfortable. Peter is now living with Susan again, but they will never again marry. Susan feels they are forever auditioning for Robert’s approval, and Bobby says “the unexamined life is not worth living.” To which Peter responds “The unlived life is not worth examining.” Susan steps inside to make lunch, taking Marta with her. The men are alone, and Peter slowly gets around to asking Bobby is he think two men who’ve known each other a long time could have something closer… Bobby thinks the man is kidding, and laughs. Peter exits.

A private club. Joanne sits with Robert, watching her husband Larry dance with a patron. As they watch, both Joanne and Robert get drunk. And Joanne is a loud, talkative drunk. She talks about her first husband and divorce. She is direct, even brutal. Larry joins them, thinking he was terrific dancing. Joanne is a bitterly unhappy woman, and sings a toast to “The Ladies Who Lunch”. She demands a cigarette, and Bobby doesn’t smoke, so he says he’ll watch. That sends Joanne off, pointing out that’s all Bobby does with life – watch. In her fury, she offers to allow Larry to leave her. But he loves her. Joanne advises Bobby never to marry, why should he? Robert responds, “for company, like everybody else.” Larry heads off to pay the check, and alone with Joanne, Robert tries to justify who he is as Joanne simply stares at him. She finally asks when they’re going to make out, and he makes light of it. But she means it, and is very direct in setting up a time and place. She says she’ll take care of him, and he asks who he will take care of. That is what Joanne was really pushing for, Bobby to wake up and live his life. Joanne happily heads home with her husband, mission accomplished.

Surrounded by his friends, his “company”, Bobby knows it can’t go on like this, and longs have the feeling of commitment, of “Being Alive”. The birthday party again. His friends all wait to surprise him in his apartment. But Robert never shows, and they all shout “happy birthday”, and depart. From the shadows, Bobby, who has been watching, sits with a smile and blows out the candles on the cake.

THE SONGS:

“Company”, “The Little Things You Do Together”, “Sorry-Grateful”, “You Could Drive A Person Crazy”, “Have I Got A Girl For You”, “Someone Is Waiting”, “Another Hundred People”, “Getting Married Today”, “Marry Me A Little” (not always used, was not in original score), “Side By Side By Side/What Would We Do Without You”, “Poor Baby”, “Tick-Tock”, “Barcelona”, “The Ladies Who Lunch”, “Being Alive”

Hits include “Being Alive”, “Another Hundred People”, “Barcelona”, “The Ladies Who Lunch”

MY OPINIONS:

You can as always ignore my opinion and rating.  That said. the result could be that you end up all alone, with no company at all…

Company leaves me very torn. I always felt it was a cold and sort of bitchy show, until I saw the 2006 John Doyle/Raul Esparza production in which the actors accompanied much of their own singing. The warmth of that production startled me and made me reconsider a show I had always admired for its rare level of professionalism, but had also always disliked. I was shown that the show can have a somewhat warmer, more accessible approach to it. It still isn’t squishy and loveable, it never will be and it doesn’t need to be. But I found that with that fine production, I was able to at least go for the ride emotionally, even if in the end I felt almost nothing for the characters and their travails. And therein rests my problem with the show.

This show was never intended to be warm or accessible. It is a diatribe about how hard relationships are to start, and to maintain. I sort of figure that most people living any sort of life already know this little tid-bit of wisdom, and don’t need or want to be reminded of it.

Company has some very funny, very rueful material. It is generally entertaining, and sometimes very much so, as when they do “Barcelona,” a really funny, great number. It passes the first and most important test of a play, a Musical, a movie – it entertains, at least most of the time. But I weary of Bobby and his too-smart, too out-of-touch friends. I find half way through the show, and I’ve seen numerous productions of it, I long for, well, some other company. Maybe Mack the Knife will be free, or Sweeney Todd – men who know their own minds, and we can go out killing and whoring together. Macheath and Sweeney’s minds may be filled with rot, but at least they know who they are, and I really find by the end of Company that is what I most missed during the evening.

Bobby and his friends are filled with self-pity, self-loathing in fact, a lot of the evening. I find that such sour self-degradation makes for bad…dare I say it, sure you know I will, company. I like a lot of the songs. The music roars and bullies and insinuates, the lyrics are the work of perhaps our most masterful craftsman. There is passion here, and genius, no doubt about it. And I personally find it not enough to make me want to spend some two hours with such unhappy people. They need help. They should get help, somewhere. Me, I just want to see a good show, which Company is…just, just barely. Which is why we’re discussing it. But its denizens, the characters that populate this just good show, they don’t help it, much.

I think anyone doing Company MUST find ways to warm it up. You MUST find some way to make us care for the man at the center of the story, Bobby, who is generally seen as a cypher, a black hole life pours itself in to no effect. Does Bobby care at all for his company? Do they truly care for him, or even for themselves? I think you have to find a way to make the audience believe they all care enough to hang on to each other and keep going – the very best message this show can communicate.

Focusing on Bobby’s abortive love life, his unformed sense of relationships, and his married friend’s often brutally dysfunctional marriages, we get an evening that says we are alone, always alone, always will be alone…and if that’s so, then why have any company? I find myself asking this question while I watch this show, usually. But if Bobby and his buddies can see the need throughout to cling to each other, to form a tribe, to face life reinforced by an army of those we love, then the show gets warmer, more interesting, easier to bare for me.

Does all this fly in the face of the intent of the show, as determined by Messrs Prince, Sondheim and Furth? Don’t know, don’t care. Every show gets reinvented every time it’s produced, and sometimes at every performance. This is the approach I would need the show to take to find some heart in it, some reason to spend an evening with this company.

Mr. Sondheim, discussing the show, has said “Musicals for decades have had… no doubts about the efficacy of a happy ending. And that if you find the right person you may go [on] a bumpy road, rocky road of love, … but it would always lead to bliss. It would lead to the so-called happy ending. We were saying something ambiguous, which is, actually there are no endings; it keeps going on. And it’s always difficult to make a contact with, commit, and live with somebody, and at the same time, it’s impossible not to. But it’s never going to be easy, and it’s never going to be solved, because it’s not a problem that has a solution. It’s not even a problem — it’s just what life is.”

Well, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, because I believe, with John F. Kennedy, that any problem generated by human beings can be solved by them. I guess I’ll keep waiting for this show to believe it, too. But man, it has some amazing songs!

MY RATING: * (A better-than-average and interesting show, right for many groups.)

 

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

The story about the first day of Company rehearsals for the original production is apocryphal. Is it true? Could be. It’s said that it took the first rehearsal entire to teach the incredibly complex opening number to the cast, thus terrifying all concerned. It certainly could be true. The number is one of the most complicated in all the Musical Theater.

Bobby (Robert) – Lyric baritone with very good upper register. A sweet voice, easy to listen to, well-supported but not “operatic.”

Sarah – Alto, strong belt (as they all must have).

Harry – Baritone. Clean, lovely voice.

Susan – Mezzo.

Peter – Baritone.

Jenny – Soprano.

David – Tenor.

Amy – Alto, fantastic with lyrics and patter verses, great breath control required.

Paul – Tenor, large, almost operatic quality, but without the heavy vibrato.

Joanne – Alto with strong lower register and belt, a mature, edgy, no-nonsense voice.

Larry – Tenor.

Marta – Mezzo, great with patter verse, excellent breath control required, strong belt.

April – Mezzo with good high notes, sweet voice, kind of sexy.

Kathy – Mezzo.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

The “company” consists of lead and supporting roles who must act and sing as their first priorities. With this in mind, the Choreographer generally thinks in terms of fun movement that is character-driven, rather than actual “dance.” You cannot overwhelm your performers in this show with difficult movement. But you can give them moves that look interesting, and even complex – so long as they are simple to learn and do. The lyrics and music are too demanding to allow for anything more, and that is the creative challenge faced by the Choreographer for this show.

The Choreographer will likely need to handle “Company”, “The Little Things You Do Together”, “Sorry-Grateful”, “You Could Drive A Person Crazy”, “Have I Got A Girl For You”,“Getting Married Today”, “Side By Side By Side/What Would We Do Without You”, “Poor Baby”, “Tick-Tock”, and “Barcelona”.

The opening number is very complex for the singers. It is an opening, and it does need movement (or at least energy and a sense of urgency), but you can’t kill your performers with anything too tough, here. There is a note held forever on the word “love” near the end, in which the original Broadway cast entered tow see-through glass elevators on a spectacular set, and went from the top floor to the bottom while singing the note. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to replicate that effect unless you have a huge budget, so you’ll need to focus instead on the reason behind this number.

Some of the numbers take place as commentary over action. “The Little Things You Do Together” is sung as a couple play-fight (a bit of both) using karate. The singers don’t move, though they can watch. The action is at the center of the stage, the fight. Moving around the singers will upstage the action. Perhaps the men can root for the man, the women for the woman, to get some connection between the scene and the Greek-Chorus-like singers, if deemed helpful. Again, though, as is true with most Sondheim songs, the audience must be able to get every word of the lyric. Piling dense lyrics on top of what is already an action-oriented focus is a lot. Don’t move the singers much.

“Sorry-Grateful” involves the various husbands and their overall feelings about whether marriage is a good thing or not. The problem with this number is that it’s a lot of tell, don’t show. That never makes for great theater, and this number feels (to me) like a slow and unnecessary lecture where I’m being told what to think about marriage. Anyway, don’t get into too much movement here! Unless you can think of an interesting and not-too on-the-nose way to show us why they are both sorry and grateful to be married. And I think that is what the whole play is doing, so all this can ever be is a restatement, perhaps an unnecessary illustration (at best) of this theme in the show. The husbands could watch their wives from a distance, as the women go through their day, and wonder at them. It would provide us some visual content.

“You Could Drive A Person Crazy” is sung by bobby’s three dates, all of whom are probably wasting their time with him. It is an upbeat, bubbly confection with tight harmonies, intended to have dance. This may be the first time you get a chance to get some actual choreography into the show. As always, the lyric must be heard, so your movement has to allow for that. (Though there are lyrics here that can date the show, like “you could blow a person’s cool”, and “where’s the loose connection.” It also has some very funny lines.) I think the ladies should surround Bobby, gang up on him, pull at him and then reject him as the loser he is. But apparently there are not very many eligible men in NYC, and so they keep trying, keep hoping, and the number should demonstrate this as well.

“Have I Got A Girl For You” is both a testosterone fix, and some wish-fulfillment on the part of the husbands. They’re no dead, they see Bobby’s various good-looking dates, and they sure can’t have anything outside of their marriages. (It is odd, though, that none of these couples are engaged in outside frivolity.) These men are infatuated with their descriptions of the women Bobby should date, and can barely keep their pants on while describing them. It is high-energy, but hard to sing again because Sondheim piles lyrics up quickly here, as he does a bit too often in this show. (He got better at avoiding this in later shows.) Do we see the women described? Probably not. This is about the husbands and not their dream dates. It’s about their marriages, and the big question that ends the song, “Whaddaya wanna get married for?” (And it begs the question is anyone in this show even remotely happily wed?) So focus on the menfolk, here, and make it a bit of a pissing contest to get Bobby the hottest girl, and in that way, offer a pathetic display of what the men see as their diminishing manhood and futures.

“Getting Married Today” is a one-woman mad show, though others do sing in the background including her intended. She is going clean off her rocker. The lyric is incredibly quick and dense, it floods out like the water from a cracked dam. Moves need to be in-character, controlled and basic. You can assemble the wedding around her like some sort of jail cell made of her friends, you can create a claustrophobic sense of inevitability that may help. What might be fun while she’s singing is to parade before her a string of nightmare images of marriage, what she is seeing in her mind, ending with a husband beating a wife while she weeps and cleans dishes, or something like that – but kept over-the-top, never real, always nightmare, always funny. These images can drive her to new heights of despair. Just a thought that would allow some movement. But Amy herself can just about not move at all and still sing this piece.

“Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You” is a vaudeville soft-shoe riff. The company all do this number, it essentially opens Act II, and needs fun, choreographed movement bordering on dance. Most of it is sung in a contained cakewalk-like tempo that allows these performers to do some steps. They should look like they’re having fun together, like they fit…almost. A misstep here or there, perhaps an improvised feel to the movement that leads one actor to go left when everyone else is going right (and the Wrong-Way Corrigan of the piece would be Bobby…), would remind us how Bobby does not quite fit. Perhaps at some point the couples unite, and Bobby is, of course, clearly everyone’s third wheel. This may be your only chance for “show-biz” choreography of any kind in the show, high-stepping, generating applause.

“Poor Baby” is another Greek Chorus number, the company singing as Bobby tries to successfully navigate a date. Bobby and his date are the focus, and the music gives you the right feel for the married couples singing about Bobby – it is languorous, bluesy, laid back but fun. Not much movement here, or you’ll upstage what is important in the scene.

If you use “Tick Tock”, it contains the sex act (a choreographed version thereof in a bed) while we hear the character’s rather embarrassing thoughts. The trick is to make the love-making funny rather than sexual, entertainment rather than porn. Perhaps it is done almost entirely in the dark, with a light being turned on and off variously by either Bobby or April for various funny reasons as we go.

“Barcelona” is a push me-pull you number. They’ve made love, and she dresses. (Again, this isn’t porn, we can’t see it.) She wants to stay, and she wants to be invited to stay. But she has no reason to stay, or to trust Bobby. He is certainly having a lovely time and wants her to stay – if not for the commitment that might imply. (He calls her a very special girl, and then cannot recall her name…) Of course she has a plane to catch, as she’s a stewardess, so he’s pretty sure she’ll need to leave when he finally invites her to stay, and he is horrified when she puts her purse down and perhaps starts unbuttoning her blouse as the lights fall. The number, the movement should somehow emphasize Bobby’s disengagement and disingenuous attitude regarding women and relationships. It’s not dance, it’s just simple movement that implies a tie between these two, a physical tie…he moves, she responds, she moves and he responds. It is another form of foreplay.

I don’t think Company is a great show for a “Choreographer” who is used to big dance routines and ensemble numbers. But it is a fun and interesting challenge for a Choreographer who can think like the character and the situation, and work with non-dancing performers well. A Director who can do some choreography might be ideal.

CASTING CONCERNS:

Bobby (Robert) – In his 30s, maybe even his 40s. Lacking in intensity and an ability to connect. A man who “likes to watch” (from Being There.) he is on almost all the time, a huge role. Requires a very smart actor who knows when to take center, and when to leave it to others. Must sing very well. Must be reasonably attractive. (And apparently independently wealthy as we never see or hear anything about his work.) Cast for acting, voice, type, and some movement.

Sarah – 30s-mid 40s. Critical, carries an endless chip on her shoulder. Smart, “cool.” Self-indulgent. Very competitive. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Harry – Sarah’s husband, about her age or a touch older. Almost as competitive as his wife, though less self-indulgent. A man who secretly wonders what he’s gotten himself into at times, and then answers his own question in the affirmative. Cast for acting, type, voice and some movement.

Susan – 25-35, a modern Southern Bell, who cannot abide scenes. Bobby describes her as “easy and loving,” and “warm.” So she divorces Peter gracefully. It is late in the play when we come to understand what may have motivated their divorce. Sweet, keeps things as light and polite as possible. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement.

Peter – Around Susan’s age. Keeps things breezy, fun, avoids any darkness because he himself can’t really confront or deal with it. He probably should not have married, as he is determined to “experience life” (whatever that means to him), and is secretly gay, or at least wonders if he is. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Jenny – 30-45. Game, will do whatever it takes to make David, her husband, a happy man, even acts she quietly disapproves of. She is willing to sacrifice her own best interest to his pleasure or needs, which is why she gets stoned. (NOTE – their scene really runs the risk of feeling dated. Focus on the characters and their relation to each other rather than on the toking, and it will have a better shot at working.) The sort of person who bends over backwards to please others, and never mentions her sacrifice. Aware of others, watchful, interested. Perhaps the best human being in the show. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

David – Jenny’s husband, about her age. A straight-shooter, a good and honest man who has married well. Theirs is a relatively functional marriage, if not an ad for the condition. David, like his wife, is aware of Bobby and what he’s about. And as a man, he can call him on it. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Amy – Probably mid 20s-early 30s. High-strung, wide-eyed, terrified of so many things. Bobby describes her as “frantic and touching,” “crazy,” and “skinny and blue-eyed”, and you’re stuck with these because they’re in a lyric. Requires a very skilled singing comic actress with great precision in delivering a song. Cast for voice, type and acting, some movement.

Paul – About Amy’s age, maybe a bit younger. Steady, patient, loving, confident – many things that Amy is not. Should be attractive, too, a real catch, so we get that Amy really is nuts to walk out on this good and goodly man. Cast for type, voice, acting, some movement.

Joanne – 40-55. The elder statesman among the wives. Edgy, brutal in her honesty. Utterly no-nonsense, she hates change, hates youth, hates growing old, and really doesn’t like much. But she does love, and it’s tough love, the kind that pushes and prods and insists on the best from others. She is fearless when drunk, and will say or do anything. Deep down, devoted to her Larry. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Larry – Joanne’s age. Jovial, a bit disconnected and aloof, still trying (and failing miserably) to live the life of a twenty year-old. A sweet-hearted man looking for some fun, and avoiding scenes. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Marta – In her 20s, maybe even her late teens. A bit of a hippy type, a little whack. Pushy, singular, impatient. Must have a fantastic belt voice and be able to spit out a stacked lyric cleanly and expertly.

April – In her 20s-early 30s, gorgeous, a classic stewardess type, great figure. The audience should feel that Bobby has hit the jackpot when he makes love to her. But there’s a romantic in there, waiting to be asked out into the open. Cast for type, acting, voice and movement.

Kathy – 20s-30s. A quiet soul, honest and loving. A romantic at heart, injured and disappointed by Bobby and NYC. She loves where she loves, no questions asked, and cannot withdraw that love once given. Cast for acting, type, voice and then movement.

SETS:

Always done with a unit set representing New York City, its big buildings and small apartments, a symbol of the plays intended message, lots of people around but always alone. The original set was famously a lot of glass and chrome, with two working elevators. But I’ve seen the show effectively done on a platform, with perhaps the blinking lights of New York’s many towers or its skyline implied as a background. Unless you have a massive budget, keep it simple. Some neon signage or the Manhattan skyline implied in the back would be cool. Let your actors present life in a big city, rather than your set.

Unless you have a lot of money to spend… Then you can go multi-stories and sharp edges and angles, a thrust terrace on the upper floor, that sort of thing. But I do want to suggest that this is grand, but not needed to mount this show with success.

Depending on your approach a very tough job, or a very simple one.

COSTUMES:

Modern New York, and specific to each character. A simple job, but do let the characters breathe in their costumes, they have a lot of singing to do, especially Bobby. An easy show to costume.

Amy will need a wedding dress, Paul a tux, and Bobby, too. You could have fun and, if it can be figured out, place the cast in wedding garb while the Amy/Bobby/Paul scene plays. It’s the end of Act I, so there will be time to change them back during Intermission.

PROPS:

A birthday cake with candles that get repeatedly blown out. Presents. The meals they eat together, the drinks they drink together, the joints they smoke together. April’s wings. Hats and canes (perhaps birthday party hats?) for all the couples and Bobby for “What Would We Do Without You”. Not a very hard show to do.

LIGHTING:

This is a moody show. Numbers will be cued for mood, you can count on it. Lights will need to help narrow and direct the audience’s attention on a unit set in particular. All in all, though, not too hard a piece.

The most interesting challenge is probably going to be “Tick Tock”, if you use it. The audience isn’t going to want to see anything that looks like the sex act, this isn’t porn. I suggested an approach above. Consider it.

MAKE-UP:

Unobtrusive, modern-day make-up.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Musical Director, Choreographer, Set Designer, Bobby

MY THOUGHTS:

In reading the show carefully again, to do this breakdown, I found that I do enjoy much of it. I think there are built-in problems you will need to work around, and I have described possibilities for such above. It is not a perfect show, but it is a very ambitious, fascinating show.

I have problems with some of Mr. Sondheim’s lyrics in this show. (Sacrilege, I know.) I think many are intensely clever, such as “Another Hundred People”, and “Getting Married Today”, both very rapid patter verses. And I think they are nearly un-singable. “The Little Things You Do Together”, and “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” suffer from the same disease. These lyrics are dense with meaning, dense with rhyme and structure, they are a terrific workout for the most able singer, impossible for lesser singers. But the audience gets only one shot at them, as the show goes by, live and unstoppable.  And that is my real problem.

Mr. Sondheim doesn’t like the Rodgers & Hammerstein reprise-oriented approach to getting a song in an audience’s ear, and I sort of agree with him unless the reprise is demonstrably dramatically motivated. But without reprises, if a song races by at ultra-high speed, the audience does not have much of a chance to “get it.” Sure, a lot of the crowd that go to Sondheim shows study his scores, as I do, and we know the songs before we step into the theater. But no songwriter can count on that sort of thing! You write in the theater for a live audience, not for the cast album. You must service and entertain the people who today may pay hundreds of dollars for their seats. They showed up, and they don’t want to feel foolish or slow, or “behind” somehow. And I’m afraid that a lot of Mr. Sondheim’s decidedly brilliant work makes some audiences feel exactly that, in this and other shows of his. And those people may not ever wish to see a musical again. Add to that the essential coolness of Company, the harsh and grim view of relationships, and I do think this is a show that, mishandled, could alienate audiences and push them out of theaters. And no one wants that.

The number of people who go to live theater today is much, much lower than in past decades, no matter what producers and the Tony Awards may say. In the 1930s, as many as 300 or so shows opened in a single year on Broadway! Shows cost far less to produce, and were affordable for audiences. This was before unions pushed production costs sky high. But it was also a trend motivated by the fun, the enjoyment people received when they went to the theater.  And it meant plenty of work for everyone who did Broadway shows.  That was a better state for theater to be in than what we have today, by far.

Reaching for deep meaning is a fine and wonderful thing in the arts, and it must be done. Fun is also a fine and wonderful thing, and without it, theater will not survive. This show is capable of providing both meaning and fun. But it lacks the sort of joy that will make an audience thrilled to have been there, the kind of reaction I saw Rent and Ragtime receive in their time. There are lesser works, such as Godspell, that provide that charge of joy which I think audiences long for.  Company drums in a message we all know all too well, and for which adults already have formed opinions. I think this show will work best, then, in creative productions focused on fun, on joy, on uplift of some sort, and which allow the message to speak for itself rather than being hammered in.