Musical It's Bobbi's birthday, and she's got company... Bobbi has always been content living alone. But now, on the eve of her 35th birthday, images of her married friends begin to haunt her. As she looks over her life she begins to wonder whether she's as happy and independent as she thought she was...
Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's bittersweet musical comedy is a wry and witty take on love, sex and relationships in the big city. Famous for the songs The Ladies Who Lunch, Side By Side and Being Alive.
Stephen Sondheim's West End credits include Sunday in the Park with George, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Merrily We Roll Along and Into the Woods, Pacific Overtures, Saturday Night, West Side Story, Gypsy, and the compilation Side by Side by Sondheim.
Original London West End Production 1972
Previewed 13 January 1972, Opened 18 January 1972, Closed 4 November 1972 at Her Majesty's Theatre
The original cast featured Larry Kert as 'Robert', Marti Stevens as 'Sarah', Kenneth Kimmins as 'Harry', Joy Franz as 'Susan', J T Cromwell as 'Peter', Teri Ralston as 'Jenny', Lee Goodman as 'David', Beth Howland as 'Amy', Steve Elmore as 'Paul', Elaine Stritch as 'Joanne', Robert Goss as 'Larry', Annie McGreevey as 'Marta', Donna McKechnie as 'Kathy' and Carol Richards as 'April' with The Vocal Minority: Audrey Duggan, Angela Eaton, Leonie Jessel, Georgina Pierce, Roger de Courcy and Kenneth Garner.
Directed by Harold Prince with musical staging by Michael Bennett, sets by Boris Aronson, costumes by D D Ryan, lighting by Robert Ornbo and sound by David Collison.
1st London West End Revival 1995
Previewed 1 December 1995, Opened 13 December 1995, Closed 2 March 1996 at the Donmar Warehouse
Previewed 7 March 1996, Opened 13 March 1996, Closed 29 June 1996 at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)
The cast at both the Donmar Warehouse and the Albery Theatre featured Adrian Lester as 'Robert', Rebecca Front as 'Sarah', Clive Rowe as 'Harry', Clare Burt as 'Susan', Gareth Snook as 'Peter', Liza Sadovy as 'Jenny', Teddy Kempner as 'David', Sophie Thompson as 'Amy', Michael Simkins as 'Paul', Sheila Gish as 'Joanne', Paul Bentley as 'Larry', Anna Francolini as 'Marta', Kiran Hocking as 'Kathy' and Hannah James as 'April'.
Directed by Sam Mendes with musical staging by Jonathan Butterell, designs by Mark Thompson, lighting by Paul Pyant and sound by John A Leonard.
This production was recorded in front of a live audience during it's run at the Donmar Warehouse and was broadcast on BBC 2 television on 1 March 1997.
"What distinguishes Sam Mendes's fine revival at the Donmar Warehouse from Harold Prince's original 1970 production is that it brings out even more clearly the heartache and solitude that lies underneath the show's snappy, revue-like structure. Mendes not only pays as much attention to George Furth's book as he does to Sondheim's music and lyrics. He has also come up with a framework that defines the show's meaning. The story deals with a 35-year-old Manhattan bachelor's shifting relationship with five married couples and three girlfriends. But in Mendes's production, birthday boy Robert sits alone in his stylish loft conjuring up his friends as if they were simply figures in his dream... This version digs deeper without destroying the punch and point of the dazzling individual numbers. The highlight here is Sophie Thompson's brilliant rendering of Getting Married Today, in which her headlong pattern reveals the blind panic of a bride on her wedding morning. But Adrian Lester, in a stunning performance, adds a new dimension to Robert by suggesting that the big showbiz number, Side By Side, is the fantasy of a lonely cokehead. Mendes has rethought a classic musical from top to bottom. His version may not have the glitz of Prince's original. But he has sharpened the key point: that Sondheim and Furth are writing, with compassionate wit, about a man trying to escape the promiscuous demands of friendship to discover just who and what he is." The Guardian
"There is something sinister and menacing about Robert's married chums as they enter chanting his name at the start of the surprise party they are throwing for his 35th birthday. Nor are his subsequent encounters very encouraging to a chap with doubts about breakfast-table bliss. Competition, deceit, games-playing, childishness all clearly have their place in modern wedlock. Robert finds himself stopping a half-serious karate bout between Clive Rowe's Harry and Rebecca Front's Sarah. He mawkishly congratulates Clare Burt's Susan and Gareth Snook's Peter on their happiness, only to find they are about to divorce. He watches Sheila Gish's much-married Joannne getting aggressively drunk and Sophie Thompson's Amy deciding she cannot go to the altar with her oppressively affectionate long-time lover, Michael Simkins's Paul. Sondheim's brash, bold harmonies are sometimes allowed to overwhelm his even more brilliant lyrics; but not here. Thompson's panicky paean to the awfulness of being adored sums up the show's tone and thrust... Robert's friends add to the confusion by envying him his bachelor fun, attacking him as immature, praising and rubbishing his girlfriends, and trying to sleep with him. After all that, his last-gasp conversion to marriage is in danger of seeming trite, and did so in 1972. But a splendidly hesitant new song called Marry Me a Little prepares the way, and Lester's robust delivery of the final number takes him home. He wants "someone to need me too much, someone to know me too well, someone to pull me up short, someone to put me through hell". It is the right conclusion to a vastly enjoyable evening." The Times
"Sam Mendes has made [Bobby] the central consciousness, rather than the MC, of the musical by presenting the material - which can seem like a collection of revue sketches - as fantasies inside the Manhattan loft of Bobby's mind. Several times, the cast steal in as a spectral surprise birthday party with a cake whose candles sinisterly refuse to be blown out to allow a wish. Only on the last occasion is this crowd actually present, by which time the birthday boy has done a salutary bunk on them. The first half of Mendes's production ends with Bobby singing 'Marry Me a Little', a song dropped from the original show. Performed with a desperate, self-impatient edge by Lester, the number dramatises the tussle in Bobby between the need to make a whole-hearted commitment and the need for safeguards. But even with this staging post now clearly marked, there is still inadequate justification in dramatic terms for the suddenly affirmative, if ambiguous climax of 'Being Alive', the nearest Sondheim gets to dispensing uplift... The evening is, none the less, packed with delights. The band plays with exhilarating punch and a splendid Sophie Thompson delivers the top-speed, babbling, wedding nerves song like a hapless, hysterically comic version of that jabbering mouth in Beckett's Not I. Unmissable." The Independent
"Director Sam Mendes has found the key to the show's heartbeat. His imaginative restaging unlocks the show's dramatic drive by streamlining the complex interaction so that it appears to take place almost entirely in the sitting room or the imagination of his central character, Bobby. And his terrific award-winning cast do the rest. Adrian Lester's performance as Bobby, everyone's easy-going best friend or possible lover, has deepened and grown since the show first surfaced at the intimate Donmar Warehouse. He fills the Albery Theatre's space with the amused, bemused bewilderment and subtle pain of a man unable to explain the hollowness of his own apparently fun-filled existence... There is the mocking, sophisticated taunts flung at full throttle on the Ladies Who Lunch - a number which Miss Sheila Gish has now made entirely her own. For a brief second in her gutsy anger she lets her guard slip. And in that instant she reveals, as few have ever dared before, the empty void and ensuing panic at the centre of her own being... A quirky, haunting West End debut from Hannah James gives a complete new level of comic poignancy to the lilting one-night-stand duet, Barcelona. And there is a genuine mad pre-nuptial terror in Sophie Thompson's complex counterpoint duet together with Michael Simkins's patient groom in Getting Married Today. I could go on ticking off the multitude of joys to be found at the Albery. But it is best to discover them for yourselves." The Daily Mail
Company in London at the Donmar Warehouse previewed from 1 December 1995, opened on 13 December 1995 and closed on 2 March 1996, transferred to the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) previewed from 7 March 1996, opened on 13 March 1996 and closed on 29 June 1996.
2nd London West End Revival 2018 (gender-swapped)
Previewed 26 September 2018, Opened 17 October 2018, Closed 30 March 2019 at the Gielgud Theatre
A major revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical Company in London starring Rosalie Craig and Patti LuPone
The legendary Broadway musical as you've never seen it before. With the lead role gender-swapped from the male 'Bobby' to the female 'Bobbi'.
The cast features Rosalie Craig as 'Bobbie', and Patti LuPone as 'Joanne' with Mel Giedroyc as 'Sarah', along with Jonathan Bailey as 'Jamie', George Blagden as 'PJ', Ashley Campbell as 'Peter', Richard Fleeshman as 'Andy', Alex Gaumond as 'Paul', Richard Henders as 'David', Ben Lewis as 'Larry', Daisy Maywood as 'Susan', Jennifer Saayeng as 'Jenny', Matthew Seadon-Young as 'Theo', Gavin Spokes as 'Harry', Michael Colbourne, Francesca Ellis, Ewan Gillies, Grant Neal and Jaimie Pruden. Directed by Marianne Elliott with choreography by Liam Steel, designs by Bunny Christie and sound by Ian Dickinson.
Rosalie Craig's London theatre credits include the role of the 'Beggar Woman' in Lonny Price's concert revival of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd at the London Coliseum in 2015; the role of 'Arwen' in Matthew Warchus's production of the musical Lord of the Rings at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2007; and Laurence Boswell's production of Euripides' Hecuba for the RSC at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2005.
Patti LuPone's West End theatre credits include the role of 'Maria Callas' in Leonard Foglia's production of Terrence McNally's Master Class at the Queen's Theatre in 1997; the role of 'Norma Desmond' in the original London production of Sunset Boulevard at the Adelphi Theatre in 1993; and the role of 'Fantine' in the original London production of Les Miserables at the Barbican Theatre and transfer to the Palace Theatre in 1985.
Mel Giedroyc's London theatre credits include the role of co-host 'Boyka' in the comedy-musical spoof Eurobeat - Almost Eurovision at the Novello Theatre in 2008.
When this production opened at the Gielgud Theatre in October 2018, Alice Jones in the i newspaper wrote that "Marianne Elliott's production is fabulous - gorgeously sung, tightly performed and really, properly funny... Rosalie Craig is a terrific actor, vocally flawless and funny, too, even if you never quite get under her skin... Pure musical theatre pleasure." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail thought "It is all quite clever and it allows a new generation of audiences to experience this early Sondheim... For its snappy production values, as well as the inventiveness of the gender switching, it's just about a four-star evening. But a show to admire rather than love." Michael Billington in the Guardian commented that "a gender change can work wonders... The transition, as embodied by Rosalie Craig, makes total sense in today’s world: my only reservation about an exhilarating evening is that the musical, in Marianne Elliott’s production, has lost some of its specific Manhattan identity... It is gratifying to see it not just being revived but also intelligently reimagined." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph said that "Marianne Elliott's reimagining of Stephen Sondheim's landmark experimental 1970 musical reboots a modern classic for the Tinder age. It's sensational. But it might not have worked... Rosalie Craig gives a career-making performance as Bobbie... with her facial expressiveness and vocal soulfulness - delivers a tour de force that deserves to be the talk of the town. But she's at the centre of an evening which, as the title suggests, is all about ensemble effort." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard highlighted that "Stephen Sondheim's musical comedy dates from 1970, but in Marianne Elliott's production — not so much a revival as a complete reimagining — it feels wonderfully fresh... Elliott has brought a finely crafted unity to a show that has previously resembled a series of sketches. It's surprising, sexy and clever... In short, it's glorious." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times explained that "Marianne Elliott and her producer Chris Harper's idea to turn protagonist Bobby into Bobbie pays off beautifully... I wouldn't be surprised, or at all disappointed, if it turns out to be difficult in future to revert to its old male-centred version." Dominic Maxwell in the Times praised "Marianne Elliott's often dazzling revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's beloved 1970 musical... Song by song, moment by moment, it delivers... a real bobby-dazzler. No, make that a real bobbie-dazzler." Neil Norman in the Daily Express held that while "the songs are superbly rendered... the show's sharp edges have been sanded down, the cyanide cynicism of the original replaced with saccharine sentiment. The result is an enjoyable romp that doesn't hit the heart as hard as it should."
Marianne Elliott's London directing credits include Simon Stephens' play Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle starring Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2017; Simon Stephens' stage adaption of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident Of The Dog In Night-Time for the National Theatre at the Cottesloe Theatre in 2012 and transfers to the Apollo Theatre in 2013 and the Gielgud Theatre in 2014; Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird of Youth at the Old Vic Theatre in 2013; William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Novello Theatre in 2006; and George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan for the National Theatre at the Olivier Theatre in 2007. Marianne Elliott also co-directed with Tom Morris, Nick Stafford's stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's War Horse for the National Theatre at the Olivier Theatre in 2007 and transfer to the New London Theatre in 2009.
"Bright, bold and brilliant, Marianne Elliott's reimagining of this Broadway classic brings it right up to date... Now 'Bobbie' is a sassy lass, simultaneously confident and self-doubting, celebrating her 35th birthday and feeling pressure to settle down from coupled-up friends. There's no plot as such so it's difficult to build much affection for Bobbie, but the vignettes about her friends and their relationships are by turns funny, poignant and thought-provoking. The highlights are Not Getting Married with Jonny Bailey as a reluctant groom and literally any time Broadway icon Patti LuPone is on stage. But as the name suggests, it's the whole company that makes this such a joy." The Sunday Mirror
"Swapping genders is nothing new when it comes to reviving classics. But changing Bobby, the commitment-phobic hero of Stephen Sondheim's 1970 musical, into a heroine has made this show feel newer and fresher than it has for decades... With Bobby replaced by Rosalie Craig's flame-haired Bobbie, Marianne Elliott's production reminds us it is plain silly to think that doubts over giving up a life of freedom and lovers for marriage and children are exclusive to men... Yet the point of this show is not to favour one lifestyle or the other, but to express the anxiety of the decision. To that end, Craig's Bobbie superbly sings and embodies these uncertainties with Marry Me A Little and the unabashed Being Alive. Broadway star Patti LuPone is magnificent as the jaded Joanne while Jonathan Bailey sings Getting Married Today with the energy of a taser. His Jamie is the hesitant half of a now gay relationship - final proof that swapping genders was a brilliant idea." The Metro
"Gather round, my musical theatre bunnies. You want to know: does it work? Yes, it works. Now hop to it and besiege the box office!... Marianne Elliott's production has a twist of British wit, especially in Bunny Christie's spry design, with tightly boxed apartment rooms framed in ice-blue neon. It's very Alice in Wonderland: Bobbie boggles at bafflingly locked doors, doors that lead only to other doors, or that squeeze onto a shrunken version of the set. Like Alice, she must navigate a surreal mindscape. Elliott doesn't press down on Bobbie's biological clock. (A tick-tock motif already patters through Sondheim's score.) In a brilliant sequence, Bobbie's make-out with a cute, dim air steward is interrupted by her chums drifting past in a mulch of marital chores (all toothpaste and laundry baskets), then by a nightmare of coupledom's mess, squabbles and babies who need more care than you can give... It's simply hair-raising musical theatre." The Sunday Times
Company in London at the Gielgud Theatre previewed from 26 September 2018, opened on 17 October 2018 and closed on 30 March 2019