Birthdays are often a time of reflection as well as celebration – another year passes and you assess the things you’ve accomplished (or not) and contemplate the things you hope (wish?) to accomplish. The people you’ve interacted with and how you fit into their lives, and how they fit into yours. It’s not often that I have an opportunity to see a show on my own birthday (which is today), but through the generosity of cast member Claybourne Elder (who has his own remarkable story of being gifted the opportunity to see a Broadway show and paying it forward), I was able to see Company, the latest revival of Stephen Sondheim’s landmark musical about the relationships between a single person and their married friends, currently playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
The story centers around Bobbi, a single woman celebrating her 35th birthday and her married friends, discussing the pros (and cons) relationships and marriage, with Bobbi seemingly happy to be single, yet yearning for more. The show is a non-linear, self-contained series of snapshots of Bobbi’s interactions with her married friends, along with some commentary from a few of the men she’s dated. The lessons learned and imparted highlight the need for connection, to allow yourself to be vulnerable and to choose to live and not just observe – lessons that are useful and necessary in this pandemic era.
The overall set design is amazing, with the set pieces moving across the stage as separate boxes with doors on two sides, both symbolizing the safety of isolation and the chance for connection. The cast is astounding, many of whom I’ve seen in other musicals – from Patti LuPone (who, interestingly enough was in a show the last time I saw a show on my birthday ten years[!] ago) to Christopher Sieber, and Matt Doyle. The standout performance of the afternoon was Katrina Lenk as the central character of Bobbi, who displayed all the emotions of a woman who longs for companionship but (seemingly) doesn’t want the complications that go with it. The lyrics to many of the songs have been updated and changed in light of the gender switch of the main character (and also for some of the more dated references that were relevant and acceptable in 1970, but not so much in 2022).
It’s fitting that I was able to see Company on my birthday, and the fact that this production has at its center a female character assessing (and reassessing) her life and the relationships she has with her (married) friends and the impact it has on the direction in her life.