Original Broadway Playbill
1971 US Tour
1972 West End
1995 Broadway revival
1995 West End revival
2002 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2006 Broadway revival
2011 New York Philharmonic
2013 Buenos Aires
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical
Tony Award for Best Original Score
Tony Award for Best Lyrics
Drama Desk Outstanding Music
Tony Award for Best Revival
Drama Desk Outstanding Revival
Originally titled Threes, its plot revolves around Bobby (a single man unable to commit fully to a steady relationship, let alone marriage), the five married couples who are his best friends, and his three girlfriends. Unlike most book musicals, which follow a clearly delineated plot, Company is a concept musical composed of short vignettes, presented in no particular chronological order, linked by a celebration for Bobby's 35th birthday.
Company was among the first musicals to deal with adult themes and relationships. As Sondheim puts it, "Broadway theater has been for many years supported by upper-middle-class people with upper-middle-class problems. These people really want to escape that world when they go to the theatre, and then here we are with Company talking about how we're going to bring it right back in their faces."
- 1 Background
- 2 Synopsis
- 3 Characters and original cast
- 4 Song list
- 5 Productions
- 5.1 Original Broadway production
- 5.2 First national tour
- 5.3 Original London production
- 5.4 1995 Broadway revival
- 5.5 1995 London revival
- 5.6 Kennedy Center production
- 5.7 2006 Broadway revival
- 5.8 2007 Australian production
- 5.9 2011 New York Philharmonic Concert
- 5.10 International productions
- 6 Recordings
- 7 Awards and nominations
- 8 Film Version
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
George Furth wrote eleven one-act plays planned for Kim Stanley as each of the separate leads. Anthony Perkins was interested in directing, and asked Sondheim to read the material. After Sondheim read the plays, he asked Harold Prince for his opinion; Prince thought the plays would make the basis for a musical. The theme would be New York marriages with a central character to examine those marriages.
Note: In the early 1990s, Furth and Sondheim revised the libretto, cutting and altering dialogue that had become dated and rewriting the end to act one. This synopsis is based on the revised libretto.
Robert is a well-liked single man living in New York City, whose friends are all married or engaged couples: Joanne and Larry, Peter and Susan, Harry and Sarah, David and Jenny, and Paul and Amy. It is Robert's 35th birthday and all his friends have gathered at his apartment to give him a surprise party (which Robert already expects due to a revealing telephone message left by the neurotic Amy). None of the couples know any of the others; they all just know Robert. At the party, Robert tries to blow out the candles, but they stay lit. The others encourage him that his birthday wish will still come true, though he has wished for nothing, since his married friends are all that he needs ("Company").
What follows is a series of disconnected vignette-like scenes in no strict chronological order, each featuring Robert during a visit with each of the couples or alone with a girlfriend. The first of these features Robert visiting Harry and Sarah, having brought over some brownies and bourbon; however, Sarah, a foodie, is supposedly now dieting, and Harry, an alcohol abuser, is supposedly now on the wagon. Between needling and taunting each other mercilessly about their respective vices, Harry sneaks glasses of brandy and Sarah hides bites of the brownie. Sarah has been studying karate, and Robert and Harry implore her to demonstrate a move or two. She and Harry are soon thrashing about in violence that may or may not be playful. The caustic Joanne, the oldest, most cynical, and most-oft divorced of Robert's friends, comments sarcastically to the audience that it is "The Little Things You Do Together" that make a marriage work. After Sarah has gone to bed, Robert asks Harry if he ever regretted getting married. He answers, and the other married men concur, that you are always "Sorry-Grateful", and that marriage changes both everything and nothing about the way you live.
Robert is next with Peter and Susan, on their apartment terrace. Peter is Ivy League, and Susan is a southern belle; the two seem to be a perfect couple, apart from Susan's frequent fainting spells. Robert innocently tells Peter that if they ever break up, he wants to be the first to know. Well, they reply, he is the first to know. They have decided to get a divorce. Later, at the home of Jenny and David, Robert has brought some marijuana along with him. Jenny is rather uptight and David is very chic, and all three puff away feeling very hip and proud of themselves. David declares himself potted and the self-admitted square Jenny talks non-stop before realizing she is completely stoned. The couple turn to grilling Robert on why he has not yet gotten married. He comments that he feels no opposition toward it. In fact, there are three lovely young women he is currently fooling around with. The girlfriends—Kathy, Marta and April—appear and proceed, Andrews Sisters-style, to berate Robert for his reluctance to being committed ("You Could Drive a Person Crazy"). As the evening at Jenny and David's comes to a close, David tells Robert privately that Jenny really did not enjoy the pot, but she pretends to like such things in order to please him.
Everyone it seems is trying to pair Robert off with someone, and each of the deeply envious men has found someone they find perfect for Robert. When you can have that, they chorus, why would you want to get married ("Have I Got a Girl For You")? But Robert is waiting for someone who is a composite of the best parts of all his married female friends ("Someone is Waiting"). Robert meets his three girlfriends in a small park in the East-Fifties on three separate occasions as Marta sings of the city: crowded, dirty, uncaring, and wonderful ("Another Hundred People"). Firstly, Robert meets with April. She is a slow-witted airline flight attendant. She admits to being boring and dumb, but shares an apartment with an apparently uninterested male friend, and seems happy. Secondly, Robert meets with Kathy in Paley Park. She loves it here because it is out of place in the hectic city, just like she is. Robert admits that, at the beginning of their previous relationship, he would have married her. She admits the same thing, and they laugh at this coincidence before Robert suddenly considers the idea seriously. But then Kathy drops a bombshell: she is going back to Cape Cod where she has already agreed to marry another man. Lastly, Robert meets with Marta who, on the other hand, loves the city: "the center of the universe." The out-there Marta babbles on about topics as diverse as true sophistication, the difference between uptown and downtown New York, and how you can always tell a New Yorker by his or her ass. Robert is left stunned.
It is now the day of Amy and Paul's wedding; they have lived together for years, but are only now getting married. Amy is in an overwhelming state of panic and, as the upbeat Paul harmonizes rapturously, Amy patters an impressive list of reasons why she is not "Getting Married Today." Robert, the best man, and Paul watch as she complains and self-destructs over every petty thing she can possibly think of and finally just calls off the wedding explicitly. Paul dejectedly storms out into the rain and Robert tries to comfort Amy, but winds up impromptu proposing to her himself. His words jolt Amy back into reality, and with the parting words "you need to marry some body, not just some BODY," she runs out after Paul, at last ready to marry him.
The setting returns to the scene of the birthday party, where Robert is given his cake and tries to blow out the candles again. He wishes for something this time, someone to "Marry Me a Little": praying for an easy, no-strings marriage.
The birthday party scene is reset, and Robert goes to blow out his candles. This time, he gets them about half out, and the rest have to help him. The couples share their views on Robert with each other, comments which range from complimentary to unflattering, as Robert reflects on living in threes ("Side By Side By Side"), a turn soon followed by the up-tempo paean to Robert's role as the perfect friend ("What Would We Do Without You?"). In a dance break in the middle of the number (or, in the case of the 2006 revival, in a musical solo section), each man in turn does a dance step (or, in the revival, plays a solo on his instrument), answered by his wife. Then Robert likewise does a step (or, in the revival, plays two bad notes on a kazoo), but he has no partner to answer it.
Robert brings April to his apartment for a nightcap after a date. She marvels ad nauseam at how homey his place is, and he casually positions her over the bed as they share stories about a crushed butterfly and a spoiled date, going through the usual movements associated with casual sex. Meanwhile, the married women worry about Robert. He is lonely, they say, and needs a woman: a real woman, not the girl he is with now ("Poor Baby"). When the inevitable sex happens, Kathy appears and performs a dance that conveys the difference between having sex and making love ("Tick-Tock"). The next morning, April wakes up to report for duty. She is got to be on Flight 18 to "Barcelona" in a few hours. Robert makes the customary false pleas for her to stay, and for some inexplicable reasons, the pleading works and she does. Robert is astonished and disheartened.
Later, Robert takes Marta to visit Peter and Susan's terrace. Apparently, Peter flew to Mexico to get the divorce, and it was so nice there he phoned Susan and she joined him there for a vacation. Bizarrely, they are still living together, claiming they have too many responsibilities to actually split up, and that their relationship has actually been strengthened by the divorce. Susan takes Marta inside to make lunch, and Peter asks Robert if he has ever had a homosexual experience. They both admit they have, and Peter suggests that he and Robert could have such an encounter, but Robert, clearly uncomfortable, laughs the conversation off as a joke just as the women return.
Joanne and Larry take Robert out to a nightclub, and as Larry dances, Joanne and Robert get thoroughly drunk. She regales him with tales of her ex-husbands and insults Larry before yelling at some women at the next table to stop looking at her. She blames Robert for always being an outsider, and then berates Larry again. She raises her glass in a mocking toast to "The Ladies Who Lunch", a song judging rich middle-aged women, who waste their lives away doing meaningless activities. However, at the end of the song, Joanne realizes that she is the worst of them all. She is the type who wastes her life away judging the other ladies, meanwhile doing nothing to improve her own life. Larry takes Joanne's drunken rant without complaint and explains to Robert that despite the fact she is so abusive, or maybe because of it, he loves her dearly. When Larry leaves to pay the check, Joanne suddenly invites Robert to begin an affair with her. Larry returns, and Joanne concludes, "I just did someone a big favor." Larry and Joanne go home, leaving Robert lost in Joanne's proposition.
Robert finally stops the incessant influx of messages and invitations of the five couples, which, throughout, he had been cheerily allowing to continue. He is upset and now openly lists his discontents with marriage, amid a series of his friends' voices expressing their disagreement. However, Robert's outburst suddenly changes to an urgent desire for commitment and wish to meet someone with whom to face the challenge of "Being Alive."
The opening party resets a final time, and Robert's friends have waited two hours, though he has not shown up. Finally, they all pack up and go home, wishing their absent friend a happy birthday. Robert appears alone, smiles, and blows out his candles.
Characters and original cast
- Robert (Dean Jones) – The central character; his 35th birthday brings the group together
The couples (all married except Amy and Paul)
- Sarah and Harry:
- Susan and Peter:
- Jenny and David:
- Amy and Paul:
- Joanne and Larry:
- April (Susan Browning) – A naïve flight attendant, self-described as "dumb"
- Marta (Pamela Myers) – Hip and vulgar; loves New York.
- Kathy (Donna McKechnie) – A small-town girl who feels out of place in New York; Robert's long-time on-off girlfriend.
The Vocal Minority:
- pit singers (only in some productions) – Cathy Corkill, Carol Gelfand, Marilyn Saunders and Dona D. Vaughn. In subsequent productions, the Vocal Minority have been eliminated. They were brought back for the 2011 New York Philharmonic production.
* This scene marks one of the first scripted representations of Asian martial arts on the American stage.
** In the 1990s, "Marry Me a Little" was restored permanently to close Act I and added to the 1995 and 2006 revivals, it is also included in the official composer's edition of the vocal selections, published in 1996 (ISBN 0-7935-6763-7).
The "Overture" and "Entr'acte" were part of the original Broadway Production. (Source: Original Official "Company" Vocal Score)
A brief reprise of "Have I Got a Girl for You" was not part of the original production, but was added in for the 1995 Broadway Revival.
*** The dance number "Tick-Tock" (arranged by David Shire) was abridged for the first Broadway revival, and afterwards deleted entirely from the score. It had become a liability in productions without dancers of the caliber of Donna McKechnie (or Charlotte d'Amboise in 1995). However, it has since been restored in some productions (such as the 2004 Reprise! production in Los Angeles and the 2011 New York Philharmonic staging).
**** The song "Multitude of Amys" was the original finale but was cut due to major structural changes in the script. "Marry Me a Little" was started as a replacement but subsequently moved to the end of the first act. "Happily Ever After" was used as the finale for the first few performances, before being replaced by "Being Alive".
Original Broadway production
Company opened in Boston in out-of-town tryouts, receiving mixed reviews, from the Boston Evening Globe "Brilliant", to Variety Magazine "The songs are for the most part undistinguished" and "As it stands now it's for ladies' matinees, homos and misogynists."
The musical opened on Broadway on April 26, 1970 at the Alvin Theatre, where it ran for 705 performances after seven previews. Directed by Hal Prince, the opening cast included Dean Jones (who had replaced Anthony Perkins early in the rehearsal period when Perkins departed to direct a play), Donna McKechnie, Susan Browning, Pamela Myers, Barbara Barrie, Charles Kimbrough, Merle Louise, Beth Howland, and Elaine Stritch. Musical staging was by Michael Bennett, assisted by Bob Avian. The set design by Boris Aronson consisted of two working elevators and various vertical platforms that emphasized the musical’s theme of isolation.
Shortly after opening night, Jones withdrew from the show, allegedly due to illness, but actually due to stress he was suffering from ongoing divorce proceedings. He was replaced by his understudy Larry Kert, who had created the role of Tony in West Side Story. Kert earned rave reviews for his performance when the critics were invited to return. In an unusual move, the Tony Awards committee deemed Kert eligible for a nomination, an honor usually reserved for the actor who originates a role.
Company: Original Cast Album
A documentary of the recording of the original cast recording was created by award-winning documentary filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker shortly after the show opened on Broadway as a pilot for a series of TV documentaries which were to highlight the different ways a cast album recording session could be conducted and the results therefrom.
However, a week after the original screening, all the original producers for the proposed series were hired to go out to Hollywood and head up production at MGM. As nobody was left in New York to spearhead the project, the series was therefore scrapped. Only this lone pilot film remains of an idea never brought to fruition.
The film is filled with behind the scenes footage of the recording process, complete with much of the musical direction from and insight of Sondheim himself. Several of the show's numbers are captured in the film, including Another Hundred People, Getting Married Today, and Being Alive. These tunes are all recorded with a live orchestra, done in multiple takes over the course of several hours.
Eventually only Elaine Stritch's The Ladies Who Lunch remains to be recorded. It is now well past midnight, and Stritch, Sondheim and the orchestra are all clearly suffering from the effects of the day's marathon recording session. Stritch struggles repeatedly to record a satisfactory version of the song, even going so far as to slightly drop the key for a few takes in the hopes of producing a satisfactory take. Her voice and performance continue to degrade. Some conflict is seen between Stritch and the producer and Sondheim as she struggles.
As dawn breaks over Columbia Records' Big Church massive recording studio down on 30th and 3rd, everyone agrees to call it a night. After Stritch leaves, they record one last take of the orchestra by themselves and agree to allow her to come back the following afternoon and record the vocal over the previously recorded orchestra bed.
The finale of the film features a revitalized Stritch, still in makeup from a matinee performance in the show, successfully performing the vocal we hear on the record in one take, as the sun sets over Kips Bay.
First national tour
The first national tour opened on May 20, 1971 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, California with George Chakiris as Bobby, and closed on May 20, 1972 at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C..
Original London production
The first West End production opened on January 18, 1972 at Her Majesty's Theatre, where it ran for 344 performances. The original cast included Larry Kert, Elaine Stritch, Joy Franz, and Donna McKechnie; Dilys Watling and Julia McKenzie were replacements later in the run.
1995 Broadway revival
After 43 previews, the 1995 Roundabout Theatre revival, directed by Scott Ellis and choreographed by Rob Marshall, opened on October 5, 1995 at the Criterion Center Stage Right, where it ran for 60 performances. The cast included Boyd Gaines, Kate Burton, Robert Westenberg, Diana Canova, Debra Monk, LaChanze, Charlotte d'Amboise, Jane Krakowski, Danny Burstein and Veanne Cox.
1995 London revival
The 1995 London revival was directed by Sam Mendes at the Donmar Warehouse. Previews began on December 1, with opening on December 13 and closing on March 2, 1996. The production transferred to the Albery Theatre, with previews starting on March 7, opening on March 13 and closing on June 29. The cast included Adrian Lester as the first black Bobby in a major production of the show. A videotaped recording of the Donmar Warehouse production was broadcast by BBC Two on March 1, 1997. On Sunday 7 November 2010, a one-off concert of Company starring most of the 1995 London revival cast, including Adrian Lester as Bobby, was held at The Queen's Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, to commemorate the 80th birthday of the composer, Stephen Sondheim.
Kennedy Center production
A Kennedy Center (Washington, DC) production, presented as part of a summer-long presentation of Sondheim musicals, opened on May 17, 2002 for a 17-performance run. Directed by Sean Mathias, the cast included John Barrowman as Robert, Emily Skinner, Alice Ripley, and Lynn Redgrave.
2006 Broadway revival
A new revival had try-outs at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Robert S. Marx Theatre in March through April 2006. This production, directed and choreographed by John Doyle opened Broadway on November 29, 2006 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre with a cast that included Raúl Esparza as Bobby and Barbara Walsh as Joanne. As in Doyle's 2005 Broadway production of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the actors themselves provided the orchestral accompaniment. For example, in the closing number, "Being Alive," Raul Esparza, as Bobby, accompanies himself on piano; Angel Desai, as Marta, plays saxophone and violin, as well as singing solo on "Another Hundred People"; the entire company sings and plays accompaniment during the second-act opener. The production won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. The musical closed on July 1, 2007 after 34 previews and 246 performances. It was taped and broadcast on the Great Performances program of PBS in 2007. That video was released on DVD and is available on Netflix Instant.
2007 Australian production
Kookaburra Musical Theatre mounted a production directed by Gale Edwards in Sydney in June 2007, starring David Campbell as Bobby, with a cast including Simon Burke, Anne Looby, James Millar, Pippa Grandison, Katrina Retallick, Tamsin Carroll and Christie Whelan. The show was well-received, and Sondheim travelled to Australia for the first time in thirty years to attend the opening night. However, the production caused major controversy when Whelan was out sick for one performance and (with no understudy) Kookaburra chief executive Peter Cousens insisted the show be performed anyway, but without the character of April. This involved cutting several numbers and scenes with no explanation, and that night's performance ended twenty minutes early. Following complaints from the audience, there was considerable negative press attention to the decision, and Sondheim threatened to revoke the production rights for the show.
2011 New York Philharmonic Concert
In April 2011, Lonny Price directed a staged concert production, with Neil Patrick Harris as Robert, Stephen Colbert as Harry, Craig Bierko as Peter, Jon Cryer as David, Katie Finneran as Amy, Christina Hendricks as April, Aaron Lazar as Paul, Jill Paice as Susan, Martha Plimpton as Sarah, Anika Noni Rose as Marta, Jennifer Laura Thompson as Jenny, Jim Walton as Larry, Chryssie Whitehead as Kathy, and Patti LuPone as Joanne. Paul Gemignani conducted a 35-piece orchestra, which uses similar orchestrations to the first Broadway production. This concert follows a long tradition of Stephen Sondheim concert productions at the New York Philharmonic, including Sweeney Todd and Passion. A filmed presentation of the concert debuted in select movie theatres on June 15, 2011. The DVD version was released on Nov. 13, 2012. The cast of the production gathered again for a live performance at the 2011 Tony Awards, hosted by Harris, on June 12, 2011.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2011)|
- A 1997 Repertory Philippines production starred Victor Laurel as Bobby.
- A Brazilian production opened on February 8, 2001 at the Teatro Villa-Lobos in Rio de Janeiro, closed April 22, opened April 27 at the Teatro Alfa in São Paulo, then returned to the Teatro Villa-Lobos in Rio.
- A 2010 production opened in Norway at The National Venue of Norway(Den Nationale Scene) in Bergen. The cast included Jon Bleiklie Devik, Karoline Krüger/Ragnhild Gudbrandsen, Wenche Kvamme, Monica Hjelle, among others.
- A 2011 Israeli production opened on May 28, 2011 at the Beersheba Theatre.
- A 2011 production by Sheffield Theatres at the Crucible Theatre
- A 2012 production in Lima, Perú, directed by Alberto Ísola. The cast included Rossana Fernández-Maldonado, Marco Zunino, Tati Alcántara and Paul Martin.
- A 2012 production in Singapore, directed by Hossan Leong. Staged at the Drama Centre November 1–16, 2012. The cast included Peter Ong, Seong Hui Xuan, Mina Ellen Kaye, Tan Kheng Hua and Petrina Kow.
- A 2013 production in Buenos Aires, directed by Nicolás Roberto, opened in La Comedia Theatre. It was starred by Alejandro Paker, Cecilia Milone and Natalia Cocciuffo, among others.
The Broadway cast album did not include Kert, because it had already been recorded before he assumed the role of Bobby. However, after having Jones' original vocals mixed out of the original Broadway backing tracks, when the cast travelled to London to reprise their roles, Columbia Records took Kert into the studio to record new vocal tracks. This "new" recording featuring the new vocals laid over the original Broadway backing tracks was released as the Original London Cast recording. In 1998, when Sony Music who had acquired the Columbia catalogues, released a newly digitalized CD version of the original Broadway cast recording, Kert's rendition of "Being Alive," the show's final number, was included as a bonus track.
There are also cast recordings of the 1995 Broadway and London productions and the 2006 Broadway production.
Video recordings are available of the 1995 London, 2006 Broadway, and 2011 New York Philharmonic revivals.
Awards and nominations
For the only time, the Tony Awards for Music and Lyrics were split into two categories. Sondheim won both awards.
Original Broadway production
|1971||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Book of a Musical||George Furth||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Harold Prince||Won|
|Outstanding Lyrics||Stephen Sondheim||Won|
|Outstanding Set Design||Boris Aronson||Won|
|Theatre World Award||Susan Browning||Won|
|Tony Award||Best Musical||Won|
|Best Book of a Musical||George Furth||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Larry Kert||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Elaine Stritch||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||Charles Kimbrough||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Barbara Barrie||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Harold Prince||Won|
|Best Choreography||Michael Bennett||Nominated|
|Best Original Music||Stephen Sondheim||Won|
|Best Original Lyrics||Won|
|Best Scenic Design||Boris Aronson||Won|
|Best Lighting Design||Robert Ornbo||Nominated|
1995 Broadway revival
|1996||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Veanne Cox||Nominated|
|Tony Award||Best Revival of a Musical||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Veanne Cox||Nominated|
1995 London revival
|1996||Laurence Olivier Award||Best Actor in a Musical||Adrian Lester||Won|
|Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical||Sheila Gish||Won|
|Best Director||Sam Mendes||Won|
2006 Broadway revival
|2007||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Raúl Esparza||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Barbara Walsh||Nominated|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||John Doyle||Nominated|
|Outstanding Orchestrations||Mary Mitchell Campbell||Won|
|Tony Award||Best Revival of a Musical||Won|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Raúl Esparza||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||John Doyle||Nominated|
Sondheim once asked William Goldman whether he would be interested in writing a screenplay for a film version of the musical. Goldman:
Company is one of those great shows, along with Gypsy and Pal Joey, that I think of as the greatest, quintessential, most beloved musicals. I remember seeing Company five times and I loved it, and I had a huge... problem which was that the main character's obviously gay but they don't talk about it. Hal, George and Steve all claim it's about a straight guy with commitment problems. Anyway I loved the show. And I figured out a way to change it, keep the score, but give it some narrative.
Herbert Ross was meant to direct but Goldman says the director talked Sondheim out of doing it.
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