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Two weeks after Stephen Sondheim’s death, a revival of his first great musical has arrived on Broadway. And while revivals of “Company” long ago became common—I’ve reviewed five—this one, directed by Marianne Elliott, is by definition exceptional, for it is a high-concept production originally mounted on London’s West End in whch Bobby, the seemingly confirmed bachelor whom all his friends long to see married, becomes Bobbie, a sexy bachelorette in a red pant suit, played by none other than Katrina Lenk, who shot to stage stardom as a result of her performance in “The Band’s Visit.”
What’s the point of the gender juggling? According to Ms. Elliott, the original premise of “Company,” which was first performed in 1970 and in which Bobby has just turned 35, is no longer valid for contemporary viewers. Casting him as an unmarried woman of the same age, by contrast, is consistent with the experience of today’s women, who are forever being asked why they haven’t settled down, gotten married and started a family (nobody, she says, asks men the same question anymore). Hence this production….
This one makes the same mistake, only in a more systematic way, and I don’t see how updating “Company” serves the needs of so masterly a show, which was prophetic in 1970 and doesn’t require Ms. Elliott’s help to be relevant in 2021. Nor am I enthusiastic about her staging…
Archives for December 10, 2021
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The first big-budget commodity musical to hit Broadway since the end of the Covid-19 lockdown has now opened—at a theater named after a man who despised such shows. It couldn’t be more ironic that the Stephen Sondheim Theatre is home to “Mrs. Doubtfire,” a new stage version of Chris Columbus’ 1993 screen comedy about a divorced father who dresses up as a woman and becomes nanny to his children so that he can see more of them. And while “Mrs. Doubtfire” is less slavishly faithful to the film than is the norm, it is nevertheless a fairly straightforward attempt to treat a popular movie of the recent past not as a springboard for fresh, creative endeavor but as an exploitable economic commodity that can be “repurposed” for further profit.
The catch is twofold: Not only was “Mrs. Doubtfire” a mediocre movie, but it existed mainly to provide Robin Williams with another of his hypermanic star turns. And while extremely serious money has gone into the show, no amount of money can make Rob McClure into another Robin Williams….
Adam Driver sings “Being Alive” (from Stephen Sondheim’s Company) in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story:
(This is the latest in a series of arts- and history-related videos that appear in this space each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday)
“It takes patience to appreciate domestic bliss; volatile spirits prefer unhappiness.”
George Santayana, The Life of Reason