Good Times: Company at PPAC

By Kimberly Rau

“Company,” Stephen Sondheim’s insightful 1970 musical about friendship and marriage has been thoroughly updated for the 21st century, including changing the sex of the main character and love interests. It’s a pivot that works well to refresh the show without losing the original intent, proving that there are some things that never change. 

Meet Bobbie, 35, living the single life in Manhattan and feeling the pressure from her friends to settle down and get married (or continue enjoying her freedom, depending on the circumstance). She navigates through intimate evenings with one couple at a time, seeing the quirks and cracks in each relationship but not seeming to understand the big picture until the end of the show. 

“You have to want to marry somebody, not somebody,” Bobbie’s friend Jamie explains on his wedding day, and Bobbie is not short on options. She juggles three love interests in the show, losing interest in each over the course of the two acts. One just wants to settle down and live a quiet life on Cape Cod (“The problem is you want too little. That’s the hardest thing in the world to get,” she tells him at their final meetup). Another literally believes he is the center of the universe (“I am the soul of New York,” he declares triumphantly and unironically, shortly before Bobbie runs off). 

The third suitor is Andy, a sweet, but simple, flight attendant. He too is eventually also jettisoned when the reality of commitment scares our protagonist away. This fear is examined through a brilliant staging of the musical number “Tick Tock,” which is often a dance piece but in the tour features Bobbie looking at versions of what her life would look like if she stayed with Andy. 

“Company” has always been a good show, and the tour, directed by Marianne Elliott, is no exception. The poignant moments still hit; the funny moments are even better. “Getting Married Today,” a funny song in the middle of a serious scene, is taken to another level. It’s Paul and Jamie’s wedding day, but one of the grooms has an extreme case of cold feet. As he panic-attacks his way through the patter song, things get more and more surreal around him, to the delight of the audience.

However, just like in the original version of the show, there are patches that seem to be lost on, or lose, the audience. This is evidenced by house-wide laughter at songs that aren’t really intended to be humorous, and silence at lines that deserve a reaction. 

If the show has its weak moments, though, the cast is solid throughout. Notable mentions include Britney Coleman as Bobbie, who doesn’t get a moment’s rest throughout the two and a half hour-plus show. Her versatile voice and acting skills are more than up to the challenge, especially during the concluding number, “Being Alive.” Judy McLane is a sarcastic, dry-witted and sharp Joanne, the older woman who’s had a few husbands, seen a few things, and has all the answers…at least in her mind. McLane’s treatment of “The Ladies Who Lunch” is nothing short of incredible. Jacob Dickey is Andy, the aforementioned flight attendant who apparently shares one brain cell with the rest of his flight crew. Dumb characters appear simple to play but require a fair bit of nuance to keep things funny, and Dickey is excellent. 

The entire thing is done on a brilliantly conceived modular set by Bunnie Christie, starting with Bobbie’s shoebox of an apartment that slides up against the next friend’s apartment, shrinks to show how stifled she feels, or disappears to give way to an abstract park. It’s a well-lit (designed by Neil Austin) and effective concept that works perfectly with the subject matter.

If you’re a Sondheim fan, or a fan of the original show, you’ll be pleased with the new treatment “Company” has gotten. If this is your first musical or first Sondheim, it may behoove you to read up on the show a bit beforehand. Either way, this is a fun musical that doesn’t sacrifice entertainment as it makes its point. 

“Company” runs through April 28 at the Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St., Providence. Tickets may be obtained at the box office, online at or by calling 401.421.2787.