Company’: A long-running series of vignettes
Kaitlyn Conway | Thursday, October 8, 2009
This fall, PEMCo is putting on a production of “Company,” a Stephen Sondheim musical. The show is a series of vignettes about Robert, a man who does not want to commit to marriage but is surrounded by married friends, and how they all struggle with what they really want from life. The show progresses through moments he has with his friends and three girlfriends, all tied into the central event of his 35th birthday. As Sondheim describes it, the characters in the musical are “middle-class people with middle-class problems.”
“Company” first premiered on Broadway in April 1970 and ran for 690 performances until January 1972. The original cast was composed of Dean Jones (Robert), Barbara Barrie (Sarah), Charles Kimbrough (Harry), Merle Louise (Susan), John Cunningham (Peter), Teri Ralston (Jenny), George Coe (David), Beth Howland (Amy), Steve Elmore (Paul), Elaine Stritch (Joanne), Charles Braswell (Larry), Pamela Myers (Marta), Donna McKechnie (Kathy) and Susan Browning (April). Jones withdrew shortly after opening night, due to his ongoing divorce proceedings, and was replaced by Larry Kert (famous for his role as Tony in the original cast of “West Side Story”). He was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance as Robert. Several of the original cast (Kert, Stritch, Franz and McKechnie) reprised their roles for the London run of the show (1972).
The original Broadway production of the show was immensely popular, and received a great deal of critical acclaim. It won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Lyrics, Best Scenic Design and Best Direction of a Musical. Browning received the Theatre World Award for her role as April, one of Robert’s girlfriends. The original production also received several Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding Book of a Musical, Outstanding Lyrics, Outstanding Music, Outstanding Set Design and Outstanding Director.
The play went through several productions, some small and some large. In 1971, it went on tour. The first London production opened in 1972. In 1978, it went off-Broadway in the Equity Library production, running for only 30 performances. In 1980, it was produced by Playwrights Horizons. The show ran for 20 performances in 1987 with the York Theater Company. In 1993, the original cast performed the show twice for benefit concerts. The Roundabout Theater Production ran for 43 performances in 1995. In 1996, the show was revived in London. The show is still running from 2001 in Brazil at the Villa-Lobos Theater in Rio De Janeiro. There was a limited engagement of the show at The Kennedy Center in 2002. UCLA also ran the show in 2004. In 2006, the Broadway revival opened, running for 246 performances before closing on July 1, 2007.
The 1995 revival received a few Tony Award nominations but did not win any of them. In 2007, it won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. The 2006 revival also received the Drama Desk Award for Best Revival of a Musical. In 2008, a filmed version of the show was aired on PBS. It was also released on DVD.
Though the show is only 39 years old, it has already had a long and colorful running history. Its message is something that all members of the audience can grasp, as they watch the characters struggle with relationships and what they want out of life. There can be no doubt that PEMCo will continue to bring the power and punch of this musical to life here at Notre Dame.