Thursday 18 October 2018

Company - Review

Gielgud Theatre, London


Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by George Furth
Directed by Marianne Elliott

Patti Lupone

Written by a New Yorker about fellow New Yorkers, Stephen Sondheim's Company is arguably best played to New Yorkers too. The songs are legendary, but amidst Marianne Elliott’s company’s well-rehearsed accents (Patti Lupone excluded, she oozes Americana) there’s something missing from this slice of Big Apple life. Perfectly polished for sure, but it’s a tough gig to convincingly recreate Manhattan’s milieu on Shaftesbury Avenue.

In a much heralded gender swap this revival sees Rosalie Craig plays the angst-fuelled Bobbie, celebrating her 35th birthday amidst the alarm of her coterie of married buddies that she is still unmarried. Sondheim’s song cycle of a show charts her odyssey through a cityscape of dating and domestic dysfunctionality - and if the writer’s barbed observations on life veer from the cliched to the piercingly perceptive, this production delivers his songs and score magnificently.

Elliott stages the piece well as Bobbie flits from couple to couple through Bunny Christie’s ingenious set tableaux that glide across the stage, capturing the monolithic greyness of the city’s apartment blocks perfectly. Above the stage, Joel Fram's orchestra are sublime.

WIth a cast drawn mostly from the British industry's finest, the show is lavishly staged with high production values. A male trio sings and dances divinely through You Could Drive A Person Crazy, evidencing Liam Steel’s classy choreography that is magnificent again in the second half opener of Side By Side By SIde.

The red-maned Craig is gifted the lion’s share of the songs and as her Bobbie lurches through a nightmare of neuroses, Craig’s take on Sondheim’s classics is flawless. Indeed,  when sung by a woman both Marry Me A Little and Being Alive are gifted an intriguingly fresh nuance.

But for all the re-casted and re-scripted ingenuity on display, it is down to Broadway legend Patti Lupone's Joanne to deliver the evening’s unmissable moment. There’s probably no finer solo to be found in the West End than Lupone drawling and drinking her way through the tour de force that is The Ladies Who Lunch, her devastating delivery making the most caustic of cocktails. Rarely is a role so immaculately tailored to the performer.

An evening at Company is unquestionably fine theatre. Everybody rise.

Booking until 30th March 2019
Photo credit: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg


  1. Are you secretly Quentin Letts? You are definitely both of the same mind on this one :-)