Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Broadway– And Everyone But the NY Times– Welcomes “Company” In Old Fashioned A List Opening Night

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Wow! What a night on Broadway at the Jacobs Theater. Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” revival finally opened after almost opening in March 2020 and then getting delayed by the pandemic. A list stars walked the red carpet and poured into the theater. There were standing ovations during the performance. All the reviewers loved it except one, Jesse Green of the New York Times, who must have seen a different show than the one we saw.

Matthew Broderick came with “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon and her partner, Christine Marinoni. Barbara Barrie, age 90. from the original “Company” cast, sat front and center. (So did Donna McKechnie.) Broadway start Donna Murphy came over to hug her. Mind you, everyone was wearing masks, the protocols were strictly enforced, but theater people who hadn’t seen each other in a long were ecstatic to be back on track!

Who else was there? Michele Lee, Brenda Vaccaro, Betty Buckley for starters. Chazz Palminteri and wife Gia came to see their pal Bobby Conte, who starred in Chazz’s “A Bronx Tale” musical a couple of seasons ago. Jane Krakowski came with designer David Rockwell. I spotted the beautiful Jennifer Westfeldt. Every row was jammed with celebrities many of whom were humming along with the famous Sondheim score or just nodding their heads.

How about Sarah Paulson and Holland Taylor, who told me it was their first Broadway visit since the lockdown lifted? Naomi Watts and Bobby Cannavale, old friends, arrived together. Grace Gummer came with new husband Mark Ronson and Mark’s famous mom, Ann Dexter Jones. Mark, you know, produces all the hits for Miley Cyrus and everyone else. Jesse Tyler Ferguson was in the house. So was Christine Baranski, who keeping things low profile.

And then there was Leslie Odom, Jr. sitting on the aisle just a few rows behind me. Not bad. I’ve never seen a theater so jammed. The Jacobs holds 1,000 people and there were that many on their feet whenP Patti Lupone, of course, stole the show with the centerpiece number, “Ladies Who Lunch.” I know Elaine Stritch, Sondheim himself, and DA Pennebaker (who famous filmed them recording the LP) were clapping in heaven. The whole show is worth seeing and hearing Patti do this number. It’s a home run.

The whole cast is tremendously talented. Matt Doyle is hilarious as the renamed Jamie (his character is female in previous productions) as the nervous groom singing  the rapid fire “Getting Married Today.” But the most recognition must go to Tony winner Katrina Lenk. She plays the first ever female Bobby, the central character, now a single woman debating whether she should be married. Her quest takes her on a survey of married friends, some happy, some not, and ends with singing the other keynote song of this musical, “Being Alive.” In the past Bobby has always been a guy. But making this change gives the show an unexpected poignancy. Lenk is not a belter. That’s Lupone’s job. Lenk makes Bobby vulnerable and accessible. And likeable. You root for her. And it doesn’t hurt Lenk has an exotic face that adds mystery  to her quest. She and Lupone give Tony winning performances.

And then there’s the music. Sondheim’s recent death has made everyone extra mushy about him. But the truth is, this score– written in in 1969-70– is more sophisticated and textured than anything you’ll hear today. A 14 piece orchestra is above the stage playing it, too, which is like a gift from heaven.

So just ignore the sour Times reviews, read all the others, and get over to West 45th St. as soon as possible. Broadway is back!

 

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
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