Cast: Adrian Lester, Rebecca Front, Clive Rowe, Clare Burt, Gareth Snook, Liza Sadovy, Teddy Kempner, Sophie Thompso, Michael Simkis, Sheila Gish, Paul Bentley, Anna Francolini, Kiran Hocking, Hannah James
Creative Team: Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim • Book by George Furth • Musical Staging by Jonathan Butterell • Directed by Sam Mendes
My Rate: 10 (from 1 to 10) / Photos: Mark Douet
Introduction Notes: Now that a new production of COMPANY opened in London, it’s time for me to revisit the 1995 Donmar Warehouse production. I was lucky to saw it twice; first at the Donmar and, a few months later, at the Albery Theatre for where it was transferred. I love it both times and I’m sharing here the “review” I wrote back in 1995. I was 31 years old at the time… how time flies!
This production won the Olivier Awards 1996 for Best Director, Best Actor in a Musical for Adrian Lester and Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for Sheila Gish; it also won the Critics Circle Award 1996 for Best Musical.
The Plot: Bobby is a lone bachelor and his married friends decide to give him a surprise party to celebrate his 35thBirthday. Before blowing the candles, Bobby thinks about his life, specially his relationships.
The Show: This is a musical masterpiece! The book by George Furth is intelligent, with terrific lines, and lives in perfect harmony with Stephen Sondheim’s words. To tell the truth, it's impossible to know when the work of one end and the others began. Unforgettable and original, this is a modern classic, which revealed to the world one of Sondheim's best scores!
Sam Mendes took full advantage of the single set he had at Donmar Warehouse’s small stage. Paying equal attention to the small details as he did to the big ones, he transformed this production into an unforgettable experience. Being at ease with the hilarious sequences as well with the dramatic ones, he makes us care for the characters, involving us into their games.
The cast couldn’t be better, and everyone lives their characters lively and emotionally. Of course, for obvious reasons, some of the roles shine more than others. In the leading role of Bobby, Adrian Lester plays it with heart and soul, giving a great realistic performance. His Bobby is real, and we really care for him!
But, besides Lester, the truth is that the show belongs to the ladies, specially to two of them. As the alcoholic Joanne, Sheila Gish stopped the show with her powerful "The Ladies Who Launch". As the freaked bride, Sophie Thompson brought down the house with her touching and funny rendition of "Getting Marry Today". Both actresses were absolutely amazing, but the other females of the company were also very good.
The score has some of Sondheim’s best songs and the cast gave them a new life, making them, once again, unforgettable. There are only two dance numbers, and both were a joy to watch. “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” is brilliantly effective on its simplicity. “Side by Side by Side / What Would We Do?” is a true showstopper; full of originality and humour, was truly hilarious and one of the best dance numbers I saw on stage.
From the haunting opening number to the blew of the candles at the final, this revival is a unique event, of those that only happens once in a lifetime!