Armchair Travels Passions Reviews

Company Comparative Study

After seeing Company for the first time ever a few months ago, I’ve become smitten with this musical. I’ve not spent much time with Sondheim’s works; they’ve not grabbed me like so many other musicals have. So I’ve mostly ignored them. Sure, you encounter many of his songs along your musical journey; so many of them are classics with their wit and playful lyricism and challenging melodies. But none of them have been songs that I listened to repeatedly or knew many of the words to. Total, I’ve seen a college production of Sweeney Todd,  a high school production of Into the Woods, and a local production of Assassins. I did not love any of those so I never sought out Sondheim in earnest. I didn’t think I liked his work.

But then in 2018, a revival of Company caught my eye in the West End: it was GENDER SWAPPED. The main character was no longer a single man named Robert turning 35 having an existential crisis about whether or not he should get married and if he even wants to (I mean, who cares?), but a 35 year old single woman named Bobbie having an existential crisis about whether or not she should get married and if she even wants to.

Now that sounded interesting.

So four years later, when my dad asked if I wanted to fly to New York for New Year’s to see two celebrity-cast musicals (spoiler: we only saw one of them), I instantly asked if we could sneak in another show or two. He let me pick, trusting to “pick something good”.  Company was playing in New York with a star-studded cast (Tony-winner Katrina Lenk, PATTI FREAKING LUPONE, Christopher Fitzgerald and Christopher Seiber (two excellent supporting Broadway actors); I knew I had to see it. I would kick myself forever if I didn’t take this opportunity to see a Sondheim classic (arguably one of his most beloved), in New York, on Broadway, with a celebrity cast (PATTI LUPONE), and such a modern, feminist twist to the storytelling.

IT WAS FREAKING GREAT.

The show hit me like a gut punch. I am a 37 year old married woman with complicated views on long-term relationships, and a mother who sometimes craves total isolation and solitude. So, a musical comedy about a woman in her mid-thirties reckoning with the implications of her choices thus far, debating between the loneliness of being single and the soul crushing monotony of monogamy, sounded right up my alley.

This show made me FEEL things. Attacked, understood, jealous, content, sorry/grateful (#sorrynotsorry, had to). And I finally understood why I never really “got” Sondheim before or felt the need to give him a chance: I wasn’t old enough. I hadn’t had enough life experiences to understand his characters or the depth of his lyrics. But oh boy. This show.

I haven’t gotten it out of my head since then.

My friend Charlotte and I have been talking about it a lot since she saw the show in January. She also had a similar relationship with and feelings toward Sondheim, and had a very similar reaction to the show — though perhaps to opposite elements: I related heavily to all of the married couples, while she was more like Bobbie: single, mid-thirties, reckoning with the next chapter of her life. So yeah, we’ve been talking about this show a lot.

And then I decided to do something SUPER NERDY.😄

I launched my own comparative study of the version of Company that we love so much, against its original version. I wanted to see if I would have loved the original version as much as the new version. I wanted to truly understand what changes were made and reflect on why: in service of the character or in service of the audience and their modern views?

I could not find this ANYWHERE on the internet. No comprehensive list of the changes made. No comparison list of audio or video performances of the songs. Nada. I found tons and tons of articles about the revival and how brilliant it is (IT REALLY IS. The more I listen and read this show, the more inspired I think the 2018 version is), but I could not find any analysis of the two texts.

So, here is the closest thing we’re gonna get: a very non-academic and heavily biased comparative study of Steven Sondheim’s Company.

Let’s begin.


Process:

I deconstruct each scene of the written text noting any changes between the 1995 and 2018 books. I note my thoughts in the moment or related fun facts that I’ve learned along the way.

Why 1995 and not 1970? Because I couldn’t easily get a copy of the original. The most common copy is the 1995 TCG edition and is the version of the musical that has been most commonly produced over the years. From the back cover description: “A breakthrough Broadway musical in 1995, Company remains fresh, acerbic and original today. The musical’s themes – marriage and commitment, friendship and loneliness – and its innovations in form mark it as a landmark of modern American musical theatre. Company’s 25th anniversary was commemorated by two major revivals: in New York, at the Roundabout Theatre Company and in London at the Donmar Warehouse. This edition incorporates all revisions and additions made for these productions.”

Any reference to “the original” will refer to the 1995 book.

For each scene, unless otherwise noted, I did the following:

  • Read the scene from the 1995 book, much of it out loud (I love good dialogue) until I got to a song
  • Then I watched the 2011 in-concert version, starring Neil Patrick Harris as Robert and Patti Lupone as Joanne, while following along with the 2018 book.
  • In some cases, I would then re-read parts of the 2018 scene aloud.
  • For each song, I watched as many recorded performances as I could find online and sometimes listened to the OBCR on Spotify. (For every song, I list every version that I watched. These will include a mix of non-professional and professional productions; thank goodness for YouTube!)

Prior to beginning this journey, I had already listened to the 2018 Cast Recording all the way through a couple times, and my favorite songs many, many, many times. [One of them is probably going to be in my Most Played Songs of 2022 because I’ve spent so many hours perfecting the lyrics.]


Act I, Scene One: “Company”

Scene Summary (adapted from the Wikipedia description): Robert(1995)/Bobbie(2018) is a well-liked singleton living in New York City whose friends are all coupled up: Joanne and Larry, Peter and Susan, Harry and Sarah, David and Jenny, and Paul and Amy(1995)/Jaime(2018). It is Robert/Bobbie’s 35th birthday, and the couples have gathered to throw a surprise party. When Robert/Bobbie fails to blow out any candles on the birthday cake, the couples promise him that his birthday wish will still come true, though s/he has wished for nothing, claiming that his friends are all that he needs (“Company”).

Reference Performances:

Thoughts and observations:

  1. Dean Jones was the original Robert in the 1970 production. Dean freaking Jones! I just can’t imagine the dude from This Darn Cat as Bobby!

  2. The 2011 production feels suuuuuper dated to me. I think part of it is due to the staging and choreography, which feels cheesy and campy, but that’s a common problem with “in concert” productions.

  3. In the 2011 version, the opening number seems to literally be happening to Robert — all of his friends materialize in his apartment wishing him happy birthday — whereas the 2018 gender-swapped version implies that it’s all happening inside of Bobbie’s head, at the beginning of a mental spiral panic attack. The literalism contributes to the old-fashioned feeling. 

  4. Why does Robert’s friends care that he’s 35 and single? He’s a dude. This may have been culturally relevant in 1970 (and even 1995) but feels worn and immaterial today. By turning Robert into Bobbie, this premise immediately carries more weight. 

  5. The opening number is a great song, but a prime example of a Sondheim number that I prefer to WATCH rather than listen or sing to. It’s a joy to see but kind of repetitive to listen to. I think so many of his lyrics pack more of a punch with an ironic visual to accompany them.

Act I, Scene Two: “It’s the Little Things You Do Together” and “Sorry-Grateful”

Scene Summary (adapted from the Wikipedia description): In this first vignette, Robert/Bobbie visits Sarah (a foodie now dieting) and Harry (an alcoholic supposedly now recovered). They taunt each other on their vices, escalating toward fighting and thrashing that may or may not be playful. This prompts the caustic Joanne to sarcastically sing to the audience that it is the little things that make a marriage work (“The Little Things You Do Together”). Harry then explains with the other married men that marriage changes both everything and nothing about the way they live (“Sorry – Grateful”).

Reference Performances:

“It’s the Little Things You Do Together”

“Sorry-Grateful”

Thoughts and Observations:

  1. Even just reading the lyrics of sorry-grateful was a gut punch!! Oof. Married people, what say you?

  2. I love how there is no real break between scenes, and Robert/Bobbie is transported from place to place. At the time, I bet the original staging must’ve made it feel like a movie– it’s like a cut in the film as Robert suddenly just IS in another place — but the 2018 staging resonates on a deeper level by making it clear that the action is all happening in Bobbie’s head, perhaps as memories, flitting from one thought to another, as she spirals.

  3. Early in the scene, there’s an added line in the 2018 version — the first that I’ve noticed — and I’m not entirely sure what it brings to the scene. Harry is telling Bobbie about when he got arrested. Is it to add more depth to the background character of “New York”? The show is already so very Newyorky, not sure we needed more reminders of what city we’re in.

    1995 Version
    HARRY: Anyway, they mugged me and booked me for being drunk. Unbelievable. And then, Robert, the very next time I was out there, I got arrested all over again–drunk driving, I only have wine–

    2018 Version
    HARRY: Anyway, they booked me for being drunk. Unbelievable, Southern California is a Police state. In New York, or any place else, they would have put you in a cab and sent you home or something. And then, Bobbie, the very next time I was out there, I got arrested all over again – drunk driving. I only had wine.

  4. Another line change in the same scene. Sarah is commenting on Robert/Bobbie’s body.

    1995 Version
    SARAH: Bust? You bust? You skinny thing. Just look at you. Bones. You’re skin and bones.  I bet when you get on a scale it goes the other way — minus!

    ROBERT: Well, thank you, Sarah. I’m touched and honored. And I think I was just insulted.

    2018 Version:
    SARAH: Bust? You bust? You skinny thing. Just look at you. Bones. You’re skin and bones.  I bet when you get on a scale it goes the other way — minus!

    BOBBIE: Well, thank you, Sarah. I think I was just insulted.

  5. They cut the Sarah Lee joke in the 2018 version (which makes sense because I doubt many people under 40 know who Sarah Lee is). When Harry and Sarah list the foods she’s dreaming about on her diet, Harry suggests “Sara Lee cake”, to which Sarah responds: “Sara Lee cake! Sara Lee is the most phenomenal woman since Eleanor Roosevelt.”

  6. Karate (1995) was changed to jiu-jitsu (2018). 

  7. The fat joke and Harry’s derision was cut for the 2018 version. And rightly so. Fatphobic humor and mocking jokes about people doing something that’s healthy would not fly today.

    HARRY: Wouldn’t you like to see it? All those fat broads in her gym, learning karate. What wouldn’t you give to see that?

  8. Another cut joke that wouldn’t work today: a dig from Harry, when he’s goading his wife into performing her ‘karate’ for him (kind of a dick in the original version; I don’t remember hating this character when I saw it. If anything, I empathized with him.):

    HARRY: I want to see how my money is being wasted.

  9. A couple minor changes in the lyrics to “It’s the little things you do together.” that I’m curious about:
    • “Jesus Christ” (1995) becomes “Omigod” (2018) >> After discussing this with a friend, I think “omigod” (and variants) are used more commonly today as positive amplifiers. “Jesus Christ” tends to be used more in frustration, exasperation, or negative situations. So in this context, where Joanne originally says “It’s not so hard to be married / And, Jesus Christ, is it fun”, it makes more sense in modern vernacular to use “omigod” to emphasize the positive fun aspect. 
    • It’s not talk of God and the decade ahead that allows you to get through the worst” (1995) becomes “It’s not wedded bliss and what happens in bed that allows you to get through the worst” (2018). 
    • It’s much the simplest of crimes” (1995) becomes “It’s much the cleanest of crimes” (2018) >> I do NOT understand what this change helps?
    • They removed “That Sneaky Pete” for the 2018 version, which makes sense because who the heck knows what Sneaky Pete is? If Urban Dictionary is to believed, then the following line has some interesting double meaning:

      1995
      ROBERT: I mean, will I see you guys soon?
      SARAH: Don’t answer that, Harry! He gets no more questions, that sneaky Pete.

      2018:
      BOBBIE: I mean, will I see you guys soon?
      SARAH: Don’t answer that, Harry! She gets no more questions.

  10. The order of events in between songs is just ever so slightly different in the 2018 versions and definitely alters the moment a bit, giving Sarah more sass, witnessing her husband pour the drink.

    1995 Version:
    HARRY: I’ll turn out the lights
    SARAH (with mouth very full): I will. I always do.
    HARRY: No. You don’t
    SARAH: Oh Harry, I love you.
    (She exits. Harry steals a drink.)

    2018 Version:
    HARRY: I’ll turn out the lights.
    SARAH: I will. I always do.
    HARRY: No. You don’t.
    (As Sarah begins to exit, she turns to catch Harry reaching for the bottle of bourbon.)
    SARAH: Oh Harry, you sly old thing.
    (She exits, stuffing a large brownie into her mouth. Harry pours himself a large bourbon.)

  11. The song “Sorry-Grateful” is too hard to gender-swap without a lot of rewriting due to the frequent use of the word “her”, as the husbands speak about the dichotomy of marriage. So they left the three men singing the song to Bobbie in the 2018 version (instead of having the wives sing to her), which carries slightly different implications. In 1995 (and 2011 for that matter), when “Sorry-Grateful” is sung by three married men to Robert, he’s thinking about the “her” he could potentially find one day, if and when he enjoys the dualities of married love. But in the 2018 version, what is Bobbie contemplating here? Is she imagining herself as the “her” that her three married male friends sing about? I think in this moment, she’s pondering the consequences of being that “her” for someone and having her own “him”, the conundrum a couple places one another in. Does she want a future that is always so unclear?

Act I, Scene Three: Peter and Susan’s terrace

Scene Summary (adapted from the Wikipedia description): On Peter and Susan’s terrace, talking about the noise of NYC and how no one uses their terraces; ends with the couple announcing they’re getting divorced, amicably. 

This is a fast, tight scene with very few changes between the versions: several minor wording changes to simply modernize the dialogue; a few mashed together lines tighten up the scene; and a few of the lines are swapped between Susan and Peter, having Peter be the one who talks about fainting and Susan making the “You’re the first to know” joke. But otherwise, this scene is unchanged and didn’t feel drastically different in its implications. 

Act I, Scene Four: Jenny and David and Robert/Bobbie smoke a joint; “You Could Drive a Person Crazy”; “Have I Got a Girl/Guy For You”; “Someone is waiting”

Scene Summary (adapted from the Wikipedia description): This is a long scene with a lot to chew on. First: At the home of the uptight Jenny(1995)/David(2018) and chic David(1995)/Jenny(2018), Robert/Bobbie has brought along some weed that the three enjoy. The couple grills their friend about marriage; Robert/Bobbie claims s/he is not against the notion, but three people s/he is currently dating—Kathy, Marta, and April in the original and Theo, PJ, and Andy in 2018 —appear and proceed, Andrews Sisters-style, to chastise Robert/Bobbie for his/her reluctance to commit (“You Could Drive a Person Crazy”). 

All of Robert’s friends are deeply envious about his commitment-free status, and each has found someone they find perfect for Robert (“Have I Got a Girl/Guy for You”)– the original song is sung by the husbands and in 2018 by the wives – but Robert/Bobbie doesn’t want any of their choices because s/he  is waiting for someone who merges the best features of all his married friends (“Someone Is Waiting”). 

Referenced Performances:

You Could Drive a Person Crazy 

Have I Got a Guy/Gal For You // Someone is Waiting

Thoughts and Observations;

There are a lot of small changes that completely re-contextualize everything that happens. The original book feels a bit sexist with its old fashioned descriptors of women, and the rewrites strengthen this whole scene, elevating it from some weird sexist BS to smart, biting commentary. 

  1. People pretending to be stoned usually provides opportunity for great physical comedy, and definitely works in both versions. 

  2. Why did they change the “son of a bitch” to “bitch”? The rhythm of “son of a bitch” works better in those lines.

    1995:
    JENNY: Jesus!
    DAVID: That’s twice you said “Jesus.”
    JENNY: You’re kidding.
    DAVID: No. You said it two times. She never swears.
    JENNY: I Didn’t even know I said it once.
    DAVID: Say “son of a bitch.”
    JENNY: Son of a bitch.
    (They all laugh)
    DAVID: Say “KIss my ass.”
    JENNY: Kiss my ass.
    (They roar at this.)
    Kiss my ass, you son of a bitch.
    (They scream with laughter.)
    Oh, Jesus. That’s three!

    2018:
    DAVID: Jesus!
    JENNY: That’s twice you said “Jesus.”
    DAVID: You’re kidding.
    JENNY: No. You said it two times. He never swears, have you ever noticed?.
    DAVID: It’s my Baptist upbringing
    JENNY: Say “bitch.”
    JENNY: (After a hesitation.) Bitch.
    (They all laugh)
    DAVID: Say “KIss my ass.”
    JENNY: Kiss my ass.
    (They roar at this.)
    Kiss my ass, you bitch.
    (They scream with laughter.)
    Oh, Jesus. That’s three!

  3. It’s rather amazing how completely different the dialogue feels simply by switching the gender/gender role of the person saying it. “Well, frankly, sometimes I’d like to be single” coming from a wife to a husband stings unexpectedly (2018) versus the overdone husband yearning for his freedom and singledom (1970/1995). 

  4. I had the great pleasure of seeing the immensely talented and hilarious Christopher Fitzgerald in the role of 2018 David (saying 1995 Jenny’s lines) on Broadway and his physical comedy took this scene to new heights. It’s already funny as it’s written, but this scene requires a lot of physicality from its actors. If you ever get to see him in a show, do it! (He played Igor in Young Frankenstein and Boq in Wicked.)

  5. There’s an added line in the 2018 version in the following exchange (I’ve bolded it) and I’m trying to figure out why it was added when Bobbie’s ticking time bomb of a reproductive system is already implicit. Does it just amplify her struggle by having a male make the comment?

    1995
    ROBERT “…….Frankly, I wanted to have some fun before I settled down.”
    DAVID: “Right. And you’ve done all those things.”
    ROBERT: “Right.”

    2018
    BOBBIE “…….Frankly, I wanted to have some fun before I settled down.”
    JENNY: “Right. When is what you’ve been doing.”
    DAVID: “Bobbie, honey, none of us are getting any younger.
    BOBBIE: “Right.”
  1. The changes really start coming in the middle of the scene, where we meet Robert/Bobbie’s dates. 

  2. Why did they change the “doo doo doos” to “bad da da dahs”?

  3. Oh, wow. In my reading, I learned that the following lyrics were changed for the big 1995/6 revival and have remained in that form ever since, and the original lyrics sound so cringey today! 

1970:
I could understand a person
If it’s not a person’s bag
I could understand a person
If a person was a fag

1995/2018
I could understand a person
if s/he said to go away
I could understand a person
if s/he happened to be gay

  1. A  lyric change “sit like a lump” to “sit on her butt”, and “try and get you off your rump” to “try to get you outta your rut”:

1995:
When a person’s personality is personable
He shouldnt oughta sit like a lump
It’s harder than a matador coercion’ a bull
To try to get you off of your rump

2018:
When a person’s personality is personable
She shouldnt oughta sit on her butt
It’s harder than a matador coercin’ a bull
To try to get you outta your rut

  1. I’ve listened to MANY versions of this song….. and I have got to say I prefer the male version from a listening perspective! They’re so so so good!!! 

  2. One of my ABSOLUTE favorite things to search for on YouTube is gender-bent songs. Miscast and Broadway Backwards are two yearly charity events that always post videos of the performances online later. I will not think about how many hours I’ve spent looking for and watching these videos. One of the performances I’ve watched the most is this male-version of the 1995 version of “You Could Drive a Person Crazy”, and I still love it. (It’s even cuter knowing since the three guys were currently starring in the Spongebob Musical at the time and brought some of that energy.)

  3. Immediately following “You Could Drive a Person Crazy”, 1995 Jenny says, “I’m starving. I’ll get us something to eat.” For the 2018 version, David says this, before which they added some lines:

    DAVID: Oh Bobbie, you don’t have to defend yourself. Not at all – ever. It’s no business of ours anyway. Is it, Jen? Why are we going on and on about it? I’m starving. I’ll get us something to eat.”
  1. Earlier in the scene, 1995 Jenny self-describes as “square” and “dumb” (while 2018 David simply uses “square”) and later, at the end, 1995 David, explaining that his wife was hamming it up and pretending to be stoned and having fun for his sake, says to Robert, “She didn’t really love it. I know her. She’s what she said…. square…. dumb.” to which Robert replies, “Like a fox.” The 2018 Jenny tells Bobbie something similar: “He didn’t really love it. I know him. He’s what she said…. square… he doesn’t want to be a kid anymore.” Bobbie replies, “Yeah! You coulda fooled me!” 

  2. I do not understand the end of that conversation, the two lines following the above exchange. Why does Robert/Bobbie react that way? What is Robert/Bobbie saying “wow” to? It’s the same in both versions:

    DAVID/JENNY: I’ll see if I can give her/him a hand. What do you say?
    He/she looks at Robert/Bobbie, then exits.

    ROBERT/BOBBIE: Wow. Oh, wow.

  3. Is it just me or does the first half of the 2011 version of the 1995 “Have I got a girl for you?” feel a little….shady and not in a fun way? The beginning of the song feels very transactional – like look at these people we have lined up for you, who they are doesnt matter but look at all the great sex you can have! The idea of the husbands selling women to Robert comes off like a bad interpretation of the Red Light District, but this could just be my own ambivalence about how we regard one another when ‘hunting’. I liked that in the 2021 production they leaned into that shady vibe with lighting and such, but in the new production, with the women singing the song, it all felt a lot more alluring and gave me fun, sexy Red Light District vibes. Also, the orchestration and staging of the 2011 version reminds me of moments from Gee, Officer Krupke, quite a bit which could be played more silly and fun than it is. 

  4. A few necessary lyrical changes in “Have I Got a Guy For You”. Some of the original lyrics wouldn’t work today. (Notably the use of “dumb” again to describe a female character.)

    1995
    [LARRY]
    Have I got a girl for you
    Wait till you meet her!
    Have I got a girl for you, boy
    Hoo, boy!
    Dumb!—And with a weakness for Sazerac slings—
    You give her even the fruit and she swings
    The kind of girl you can’t send through the mails!
    Call me tomorrow, I want the details

    [PETER]
    Have I got a chick for you
    Wait till you meet her!
    Have I got a chick for you, boy
    Hoo, boy!
    Smart!—She’s into all those exotic mystiques:
    The Kama Sutra and Chinese techniques—
    I hear she knows more than seventy-five…
    Call me tomorrow if you’re still alive!

    [HUSBANDS]
    Whaddaya like? You’d like an excursion to Rome?
    Suddenly taking off to explore?
    Whaddaya like? You like having meals cooked at home?
    Then whaddaya wanna get married for?

    2018
    [JOANNE]
    Have I got a guy for you!
    Wait till you meet him!
    Have I got a guy for you, doll!
    Who, doll!
    Smart! But with a weakness for Sazerac slings!
    You give him even the fruit and he swings
    The kind of stud you can’t send through the mails!
    Call me tomorrow, I want the details

    [JENNY]
    Have I got the man for you!
    Wait till you meet him!
    Have I got the man for you, kid!
    Who, kid!
    Smooth! He’s into all those exotic mystiques-
    The Kama Sutra and Chinese techniques
    They say he knows more than seventy-five
    Call me tomorrow if you’re still alive!

    [WIVES]
    Whaddya like? You like laughter filling your days?
    Somebody on your side evermore?
    Whaddya like? You like constant showers of praise?
    Then whaddya wanna get married for?

  5. “Someone is Waiting” basically had to be rewritten since Robert sings about all of the female characters, and Bobbie sings about all of the male characters. (Again, Sondheim, with the unflattering descriptions of female characters, sheesh! At least Bobbie does not view the husbands so poorly.)

    1995
    Someone is waiting
    Cool as Sarah
    Easy and loving as Susan…
    Jenny…
    Someone is waiting
    Warm as Susan
    Frantic and touching as Amy…
    Joanne…
    Would I know her, even if I met her?
    Have I missed her? Did I let her go?
    A Susan sort of Sarah
    A Jennyish Joanne…
    Wait for me, I’m ready now
    I’ll find you if I can!
    Someone will hold me
    Soft as Jenny
    Skinny and blue-eyed as Amy…
    Susan…
    Someone will wake me
    Sweet as Amy
    Tender and foolish as Sarah…
    Joanne…
    Did I know her? Have I waited too long?
    Maybe so…but maybe so has she
    My blue-eyed Sarah, warm Joanne
    Sweet Jenny, loving Susan
    Crazy Amy
    Wait for me…I’ll hurry!
    Wait for me…Hurry!
    Wait for me…Hurry!
    Wait for me…

    2018
    Someone is waiting
    Sweet as David
    Funny and charming as Peter
    Larry
    Someone is waiting
    Cute as Jamie
    Sassy as Harry and tender
    As Paul
    Would I know him even if I met him?
    Have I missed him? Did I let him go?
    A Peter sort of Larry
    A David kind of Paul
    Wait for me, I’m ready now
    If you exist at all!
    Someone will hold me
    Strong as David
    Silly and solid like Peter
    Larry
    Someone will wake me
    Warm as David
    Loyal as Harry and loving
    As Paul
    Did I know him? Have I waited too long?
    Maybe so, but maybe so has he!
    My loyal Harry, loving Paul
    Cute Jamie, happy Peter
    Handsome Larry
    Wait for me, I’ll hurry!
    Wait for me, hurry!
    Wait for me, hurry!
    Wait for me

Act I, Scene Five: “Another Hundred People”

Scene Summary (adapted from the Wikipedia description): Robert/Bobbie meets his/her three dates in a small park on separate occasions, as Marta/PJ sings of the city: crowded, dirty, uncaring, yet somehow wonderful (“Another Hundred People”). We first get to know April/Andy, a ditzy flight attendant. Then Kathy/Theo, a former lover; they secretly admit that they had each secretly considered marrying the other. They laugh at this coincidence before Robert/Bobbie suddenly considers the idea seriously. However, Kathy/Theo reveals that s/he is engaged. Finally, Robert meets with Marta/PJ who loves New York, and babbles on about random topics.

Referenced Performances:

Thoughts and Observations:

  1. First line change: “Look I’ll text in you in the morning or I’ll call you and explain” (2018) from “Look I’ll call you in the morning or my service will explain” (1995) — interesting that they didn’t change it for the 2011 production. When did answering services go out of fashion?

  2. The first added line is in Andy’s dialogue (previously April). Both are flight attendants. Bold text is NEW text.

    ANDY/APRIL: Even the reason I stayed in New York was because I just cannot get interested in myself – I’m so boring. But in New York, see, I walk around and get interested in other things and other people, and that way I get involved. Or I sleep a lot.

    BOBBIE/ROBERT: I find you very interesting.

    ANDY/APRIL: Well, I’m just not.

  3. PJ has a few minor line changes from Marta, including: “…go sit in some bar at the end of the counter and just cry” (1995) becomes “go sit in some bar at the end of the counter and just stare into my glass” (2018)

Act I, Scene Six: “Getting Married Today”; “Marry Me a Little”

Scene Summary (adapted from Wikipedia): Amy/Jaime and Paul’s wedding. Amy/Jaime has gotten an overwhelming case of cold feet, and as the upbeat Paul harmonizes rapturously, a panicking Amy confesses to the audience that she can’t go through with it (“Getting Married Today”). Robert/Bobbie, the best person, watches as Amy/Jaime self-destructs and calls off the wedding. Paul storms out into the rain and Robert/Bobbie tries to comfort Amy/Jaime, but spontaneously proposes instead. The proposal jolts Amy/Jaime back into reality, running out after Paul, ready to marry him. The setting returns to the scene of the birthday party, where Robert/Bobbie is given his cake and tries to blow out the candles again. He wishes for something this time (“Marry Me A Little”). 

Combined Thoughts and Observations with *many* referenced performances for both songs:

“Getting Married Today”

This scene begins with “Getting Married Today”, one of the most iconic musical comedic performances and the most hilarious set piece from this show. It received some major changes between 1995 to 2018 that just really takes it to another level. 

In the original version, Amy is freaking out on her wedding day, wondering if she’s making a horrible choice by marrying Paul. After the song, she freaks out on him, sending Paul away telling him that she doesnt love him enough. Then Robert proposes they get married, which feels just as absurd and stupid as it sounds, then it begins to rain. The thunder shakes some sense into Amy, who runs out of the apartment to take Paul an umbrella, fully intent on going through with the marriage.

The 2018 version changes very little, swapping in Jamie for Amy, and making a few modernizations to word choices. (Lyrics were also, hopefully obviously, changed to account for the gender of the fiancé having the panic attack.)

Seeing this song performed in 2021 by Matthew Doyle is one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed on a Broadway stage. There are so many different ways to play this scene and to sing this song, and he made it thoroughly his own. The setting and choreography are totally different from any other version I have found online, namely in how the woman playing the vicar appears in different places in the kitchen as Jamie melts down, each time hysterically profoundly startling him. It really sells the idea that this breakdown is happening in his head, and not in a physical wedding hall (the lyrics leave it ambiguous, so it’s up to the director to decide how literal to play the scene). If you ever get the chance to see the 2018 staging in a production, do yourself a favor and buy front row tickets!

But until then, here are some other great versions:

  • 2011 PBS Great Performances: The Priest’s portion is underwhelming. I don’t love the delivery of “Right next to my suicide note” but do love many of her choices throughout the song, especially the bit when she steals the conductor’s wand.
  • (Audio only) 2018 Jonathan Bailey: This is the version I’ve memorized and can now sing along with😄 
  • Bootleg recording of Jonathan Bailey: terrible audio but wonderful to see Anthony Bridgerton sing this song 
  • 1992 Madeline Kahn Version: Okay…? It’s fine. Is it sacrilegious of me not to adore her?
  • Sondheim teaches Not Getting Married Today with students from Guildhall school: FASCINATING look into the intention behind the writer’s words as he coaches performers. I would love to see more videos like this from song writers teaching people how to perform their songs.
  • Footage from the Original Cast Recording from a documentary about Company: the gold standard that everyone references in their performance
  • 2002 Alice Ripley: Not my favorite acting choices, but she’s technically excellent. I feel like this actress makes Amy way too angry. She’s not mad at Paul; she’s mad at herself for not properly loving such a loving man. The lyrics and following scene dont imply anger but terror, a true moment of panic as she loses her mind. So the acting choice of anger confuses me. However, this actress is VERY good and funny. Her breath control  and diction are top notch.
  • Some random college performer, 2019: I actually LOVE her approach to this role!! 
  • 2013, Rozi Baker: Super cute performance with good facial work from the two female performers. Super fun.
  • 2007 Revival: I have not liked a single performance from this production. Technically, the actress does a fine job, but this is not the approach I want from this piece at ALL. Where’s the energy?! It should be so much funnier than this snooze fest. Boring! 
  • 2012, Jesse Tyler Ferguson: Gender swapped but they used the original lyrics. The pacing feels slower than other versions, but he does an okay job. Laura Benanti as the Priest = 👌
  • Daniel Barret, 2021: He makes some technical mistakes, but I like the energy he brings to the song.
  • Going to the Chapel and Not Gonna Get Married Today Mash Up– Michael Urie and The Skivvies, 2013: SO CUTE!!!! Very funny.
  • Carol Burnet, Sondheim’s 75th Birthday Celebration: I enjoy her interactions with the Priest but the slow speed for this song just takes away from the idea that this spouse-to-be is having a meltdown. And her age……. I am so confused by this casting.
  • Darren Criss, Broadway Backwards 2019: Probably my favorite performance that isn’t Matt Doyle. I love the “thank you, good night!” and the little interactions between the flower boy (Priest) and Darren. Also the flower boy’s acting choices are SO FUNNY. Darren messes up a few of the lyrics and it’s not as fast as other versions, but I  think this is a lovely homage to the spirit of BOTH versions.

NONE OF THESE, however, offer the same physical/set comedy that the 2018/2021 production does, which you really must see if you ever have the chance!

Changes:

  1. 2018 removed the bold part of this line: “You don’t thank a person for hot orange juice! You slug ’em!” It seems that all references to domestic violence have been nixed.

  2. 2018 removed “An oldie but a goodie” — presumably because today  31 is not that old to get married (I was 29, Justin was 33).

  3. I think it’s hilarious that they did NOT change the two following lines for Jaime to say (Matt Doyle killed both of them):
    • It’s embarrassing, Paul. People will think I’m pregnant.”
    • “I’m going to be the next bride!”
  4. A new line (in bold) in 2018:
    PAUL (1995/2018): Amy/Jamie, c’mon. We’re late.

    AMY/JAMIE (1995/2018): Just because we can do it doesn’t mean we should. I can’t do it, Paul. I don’t understand how I ever let it get this far.
    • This addition sums up the whole conceit surround the gay couple in this show, making for a much more interesting exploration of formalizing love. Seeing a straight woman play Amy works but isn’t as impactful. Having a straight man sing that part, freaking out about marrying a woman, feels bored and stereotypical. But by making it a gay man, who has historically never had the choice to get married, choose to get engaged and then lose it on his wedding day in all the same ways straight people have, asks a different question than the original text: why are we doing the same thing that miserable straight people have been doing for millennia? Is it worth it in the end? [Spoilers: Jamie decides that it IS worth it. He’s right.]
  5. The lines in bold were added in to the 2018 exchange between Bobbie and Jamie, which I think helps make the exchange make more sense:

    BOBBIE (ROBERT): You did… what you had to do… I guess… if it was right, you would have gone through with it. That’s what I think, anyway. (Pause.) Jamie, you know what we should do?
    JAMIE: What’s that?
    BOBBIE: We should get married, us two.
    JAMIE: What?
    BOBBIE: That would shut them all up
    . Marry me.
    JAMIE (AMY): Huh?
    BOBBIE (ROBERT): You said it before — we’re just alike. Why don’t we, Jamie?

  6. If you’re very familiar with the original lyrics, most of the changes are syllable-for-syllable matches that are easy to incorporate.

    Husband joined to wife” >>> “Boy unites with boy

    Amy, I give you the rest of my life” >>> “Jamie, I give you the rest of my days

    My happily soon-to-be wife” >>> “My love, my partner, my life”

    Bless this day / tragedy of life / husband yoked to wife” >>> “Bless this day / opposite of joy / boy gets yoked to boy”

    “Or do you want to see a crazy lady fall apart in front of you?” >>> “Or do you want to see a crazy person fall apart in front of you?”

    “Bless this bride” >>>  “Bless this fool”

    But why watch me die like Eliza on the ice” >>> “But why watch me die when I’m only being nice?”

    “So thank you for the twenty-seven dinner plates,
    and thirty-seven butter knives,
    and forty-seven paperweights,
    and fifty seven candle holders”
    >>>
    “so thank you for the
    Twenty-seven dinner plates
    And thirty-seven salad bowls
    And forty-seven picture frames
    Fifty-seven candleholders-“


    The biggest change that will throw off your rhythm, though, is this part:
    “I telephoned my analyst about it, and he said to see him Monday
    But by Monday I’ll be floating in the Hudson with the other garbage”
    >>>
    “I telephoned my shrink and he said maybe I should come and see him Monday,
    but by Monday I’ll be floating in the Hudson with the other garbage”

“Marry Me a Little”

This song is unchanged between versions, which I think says a lot about the longevity and universality of the song. As the Act One closing number, the optimism and idealism of this song stands in stark contrast to the bitterness and cynicism of the Act Two closing number (“Being Alive”), though both deal with the inherent juxtapositions of long term relationships and love. In the first, Robert/Bobbie longs for a rose-colored Goldilocks vision of love – cry but not often, play but not rough, make just the demands that I can fulfill, want me, love me, but tno too much – and in the second, Robert/Bobbie comes to accept the more realistic version of love – someone who annoys you can also provide great fulfillment. Are these two songs two sides of the same coin?

Act II, Scene One:  “Side by Side by Side”, “What Would We Do Without You?”

Scene Summary (adapted from the Wikipedia description): The birthday party scene is reset, and Robert/Bobbie  goes to blow out the candles. This time, s/he gets them about half out, and the couples have to help with the rest. The couples share their views on their dear friend with each other as Robert/Bobbie reflects on always being the third wheel (“Side By Side By Side”), soon followed by the up-tempo ode to Robert/Bobbie’s role as the perfect friend (“What Would We Do Without You?”). 

Referenced Versions

Thoughts and Observations:

  1. First line change is Peter. 2018 removed “You lucky son of a gun” from the following exchange:

    DAVID: You wish for a wife, Robert?
    PETER: Don’t. You’re a lucky son of a gun now. Hang in there.

  2. 2018 took Joanne’s original line and gave it to her husband:
    1. 1995:

      JOANNE: Everyone adores you. What an awful thing. I’d kiss you goodnight, Robby, but Larry gets jealous.

      2018:

      JOANNE: Everyone adores you. What an awful thing.
      LARRY: I’d kiss you goodnight, Bobbie, but Joanne gets jealous.

  3. This lyric cuts deep: “One is lonely, two is boring. Think what you can keep ignoring.” and it’s follow up: “One’s impossible, two is dreary, three is company, safe and cheery.

  4. Reading the lyrics of the 1995 version being said about a man…. feels implausible. I’m sorry, what single straight dude in his 30s is *that* organized, *that* willing to hang out with married people and their children, *never* forgets birthdays, helps with the dishes and provides therapy sessions for his friends? Naw, dude. That’s describing a lady. The gender swap here makes this WAY more realistic, imo.

  5. Lyric change in “Side by side by side”: 2018 changed “He’s such a cutie” to “She’s such a treasure” — smart, not to comment on the character’s looks but her character.

  6. Lyric change in “Side by side by side”:
    1995: Never a bother // seven times a godfather
    2018: Pal and pinch-hitter // Plus a perfect babysitter

  7. I LOVE that they retained Joanne’s line in the song as it brings depth to her relationship with Bobbie that has more interesting implications today than with Robert in the 70s: “Sometimes I catch her looking and looking. I just look right back.”

  8. Interesting change that I’m curious about:

    1995:
    Permanent sun, no rain…
    We’re so crazy, he’s so sane…
    Friendship forbids anything bitter.

    2018:
    Permanent sun, no rain…
    We’re so crazy, she’s so sane…
    Everyone blends, like a good whiskey

  9. Another one that makes sense with a female protagonist:

    1995: Being the kid, as well as the sitter
    2018: Intimate friends but nothing that’s risky…

  10. A simple word change that leans into the many interpretations of the show’s title a bit more:

    1995: “Who is so dear, who is so deep, and who would keep him/her occupied when I wanna sleep?
    2018: “Who is so cool, who is so deep, and who would keep him/her company when I wanna sleep?

  11. A significant lyric change that removes any hint of violence.

    1995:
    How would we ever get through?
    Should there be a marital squabble,
    Available Bob’ll
    Be there with the glue.

    2018:
    How would we ever get through?
    Should there be some marital tension
    It’s her intervention
    that starts us anew

  12. The stage directions in both versions call for everyone but Robert/Bobbie to take part in the final chorus and repeating of “side by side by side by side…” The staging of the 2011 version, at the end, makes it feel more like a celebration of their friendships, with Robert taking part in the singing and dancing. I think it’s more interesting to have them singing around him, as the lyrics and tone of the song start to feel threatening, menacing, as he realizes what it means to be “side by side by side” — always living alongside someone else’s life, instead of living his own. (The 2007 staging does a better version of this moment at the end, but the more I watch this production, the less I like it. I don’t think I like having actors play instruments on stage.)

Act II, Scene Two: “Poor Baby”, “Tick Tock”, “Barcelona”

Scene Summary (adapted from the Wikipedia description): Robert/Bobbie brings the flight attendant back home after a date. The flight attendant marvels at how homey the apartment is, and they casually move to the bedroom. The flight attendant earnestly shares an experience involving the death of a butterfly, which Robert/Bobbie counters with a bizarre remembrance, obviously fabricated and designed to put the date in the mood to succumb to the apparent seduction. Meanwhile, the married friends worry about their singleton friend and the unsuitable qualities they find in the many suitors (“Poor Baby”). 

“Tick Tock” is vastly different in the various eras. In the 1995 version: As Robert and April have sex, we hear Robert and April’s thoughts, interspersed with music that expresses and mirrors their increasing excitement (“Tick-Tock”). In some productions, including the original Broadway production, this is accompanied by a solo dance by Kathy. In 2018, we follow Bobbie through all of the boxes (thoughts) in her head as she imagines a million different versions of her future based on the different men she’s dating, that resemble the lives of her married friends. It is very clearly a stress dream. 

The next morning, the flight attendant rises early, to report for duty aboard a flight to Barcelona. Robert/Bobbie tries to get the flight attendant to stay. As Andy/April continues to reluctantly resist Robert/Bobbie’s entreaties, and sleepiness takes him, Robert/Bobby loses conviction, agreeing that she should go; that change apparently gets to him/her, and s/he joyfully declares that s/he will stay, after all. This takes Robert/Bobbie by surprise, and his astonished, plaintive “Oh, God!” is suffused with fear and regret (“Barcelona”).

Referenced Performances:

Thoughts and Observations:

  1. I find it fascinating how this scene changes between productions, making it more relevant to the audiences of the time. I love how the creators of this show have always allowed for and even encouraged updating the show. At what point is a show still itself and at what point is it an adaptation?

  2. 2018 swapped in “gorgeous” for every use of “darling” when the flight attendant is describing Robert/Bobbie’s apartment.

  3. The 2018 stage directions do not mention a mirror on the bedroom ceiling, which were in the original version. LOL. The stage directions also change from having Robert and April “make love” to having Bobbie and Andy just “make out.” Much less awkward for the actors on stage I’m sure, ha!

  4. Harry and Sarah switch lines from the original to the new version, so 2018 Harry is a much better chap, expressing concern for his friend Bobbie (rather than being the uninterested party he is in the original).

  5. Line & character change:
    1995, Sarah says:
    Robert ought to have a woman. Poor baby, all alone,
    Evening after evening by the telephone.
    We’re the only tenderness he’s ever known.
    Poor baby!


    2018, Harry says:
    Bobbie ought to have a fella. Poor baby, all alone
    Nothing much to do except to check her phone
    We’re the only closeness she’s really known
    Poor baby!

  6. Line & character change. What is Jenny telling David not to do in this scene? Is there an undercurrent of sexual tension? Is it commenting on the complicated dynamics of heterosexual male/female relationships (and the age old question of “can men and women ever just be friends?”):

    1995, JENNY :
    Robert ought to have a woman. Poor baby, sitting there,
    Staring at the walls and playing solitaire,
    Making conversation with the empty air.
    Poor baby!


    2018, DAVID :
    Bobbie ought to have a fella. Poor baby, so unfair
    Nothing left to do except to wash her hair
    Maybe I should call her just to…


    JENNY: Don’t go there.

  7. No changes were made to the flight attendant’s story, which I still don’t really get. lol. But it plays much funnier with a man telling the story; I can not say why.

  8. Many of the insults that the other characters sling at Robert/Bobbie’s dates have been changed. I legit cringed when I read the original text. I wonder: in 30 years, will we cringe when we read the 2018 version too?

    1995: Dumb, tacky, vulgar, aggressive, peculiar, old, cheap, tall, tall enough to be your mother, very weird, gross, depressing, immature, Goliath.

    2018: dumb, lightweight, bloodless, sly, young, toothy, too happy, too eager, too smooth, immature, kind of weird, uncouth, disturbed, and young enough to be your son –correction, grandson!

  9. Interesting and necessary changes with the 2018 “tick tock” number. Let’s compare the text first before talking about the ODD choice the 2011 production made at this part, as soon as “Poor baby” ends, just before the song “Barcelona”.

    1995
    (The five husbands enter from various parts of the stage to surround the darkened bed.)
    Have I got a girl for you? Wait til you meet her…
    Have I got a girl for you, boy? Hoo, boy…

    (The men, holding the last note, exit, as lights come up on the bedroom as before. Music starts as April gets up and begins dressing. Robert, just waking up, sees this and sleepily sings:)
    ROBERT: Where you going?

    2018:
    ‘Tick-Tock’: a sequence in which Bobbie sees various version of her future self, a nightmarish dream that depicts her with partners and children.
    Lights com up on the bedroom as before. The alarm goes off. Music starts as Andy gets up and begins dressing. Bobbie, just waking up, see this and sleepily sings:
    BOBBIE: Where you going?

    2011: The 2011 production chooses to make this an unnecessary sexy interlude, where Robert and April make all sorts of sounds and comments while the five wives, backlit and silhouetted against sheer scarves,  dance in lingerie. WTF. it went on FOREVER. Is this how most productions handle this section? What is even happening? What purpose do these half naked ladies serve at this moment?

  10. The original makes it feel like the husbands are not on the same page as the wives about marriage, with the wives feeling sorry for Robert not having a woman and the husbands pushing him to enjoy his single life (in this and previous scenes). I think the updated text makes the masculinity on stage far less stereotypical and toxic: the men and women share equal concern throughout the play about Bobbie, including her singleness and choice in dates.

  11. This 2019 production of the original play (by some college?) makes “Tick Tock” not a sexy lingerie love dance but a peek into Robert’s active dating life, which makes more sense but I still think the most recent production nails it in terms of presentation and thematic exploration.

Act II, Scene Three: Peter and Susan are cleaning up the terrace as Robert/Bobbie and Marta/PJ enter.

The 1995 and 2018 versions barely resemble one another. This scene has been completely altered. Both versions are meant to show our protagonist that marriage isn’t always what it appears to be on the surface, and neither are the people within one. 

In 1995, Robert and Marta visit Peter and Susan, and learn that Peter flew to Mexico to get the divorce, but he phoned Susan and she joined him there for a vacation. Though they are divorced, they are still living together, claiming they have too many responsibilities to actually leave each other’s lives, and that their relationship has actually been strengthened. Susan takes Marta inside to make lunch, and Peter asks Robert if he has ever had a homosexual experience. They both admit they have, and Peter hints at the possibility that Robert and he could have such an encounter, but Robert uncomfortably laughs off the conversation as a joke.

In 2018, Bobbie visits Peter and Susan, learning that they flew down to Nevada for a divorce because it was far too expensive to get divorced in New York. Bobbie seems impressed and baffled by her friends’ unique choice, and at the end of the scene is stunned by Susan’s pregnancy reveal.

  1. While I understand that the 1995 scene was probably intended to highlight an actual problem (closeted individuals marrying someone they weren’t into as a cover and how that tension can corrupt a relationship), some of the language made the scene super homophobic. Specifically, in how Peter reacts to Robert throwing the “Are you gay?” question back in face: “No, No, for crissake. But I’ve done it more than once though.” And the way that Robert ends the scene, with the jokey “Aw you had me going” routine, that doesn’t resonate with the supposedly good character that Robert is supposedly, how decent of a person they are. He has an opportunity here to validate his friend and also let him down gently at the same time; let him know that he’s there for him in a friend capacity, and will do anything he can to support him within those boundaries. Perhaps, though, this is more a temporal issue and Robert is simply a man of his time. Alas.





  2. This scene in 2018 added more color to the character of the city of New York. 

  3. To be honest, I do not remember seeing this scene at all on stage. Ha! 

  4. Okay, watching the text of the original dialogue played out on stage in the 2011 version doesn’t feel as awful as when I was reading it. Reading it felt a lot sadder than the way it was played. Also, the moment when Peter asks Robert if he’s ever had a “Homo-sexual experience”, the camera pans over to Neil Patrick Harris, who had been openly out for 5 years at the time of the production, and his face and the audience’s reaction were all perfectly, hilariously timed.

  5. The 2018 scene is much funnier.

Act II, Scene Four: “Ladies Who Lunch”; “Being Alive”

Scene Synopsis (adapted from the Wikipedia synopsis): Joanne and Larry take Robert/Bobbie out to a nightclub, where Larry dances, and Joanne and Robert sit watching, getting crazy drunk. Joanne accuses Robert/Bobbie of always being an outsider, watching life rather than living it.  She raises her glass in a mocking toast, passing judgment on various types of rich, middle-aged women wasting their lives away (“The Ladies Who Lunch”). Her harshest criticism is reserved for those, like herself, who “just watch” and concludes with the observation that all these ladies are bound together by a terror that comes with the knowledge that “everybody dies”. 

In the original, Joanne propositions Robert to spur him into action, and in the reboot, she offers her husband to Bobbie to snap her out of her brain fog. Robert/Bobbie affirms being open to commitment, but questions “What do you get?” Joanne and Larry go home, leaving Robert/Bobbie  lost in frustrated contemplation.

The couples’ recurring musical motif begins yet again, as they all again invite Robert/Bobbie to “drop by anytime…”. Robert/Bobbie  suddenly, desperately, shouts “STOP!” and then sings, openly enumerating the many traps and dangers s/he perceives in marriage; speaking their disagreements, the friends counter those ideas, one by one, encouraging him/her to dare to try for love and commitment.

Finally, Bobby’s words change, expressing a desire, increasing in urgency, for loving intimacy, even with all its problems, and the wish to meet someone with whom to face the challenge of living (“Being Alive”).

Referenced Performances:

Ladies Who Lunch

Being Alive

Thoughts and Observations:

  1. Line removal in 2018: Bobbie no longer says “Anyway, those people that laugh and carry on and dance like that – they’re not happy.” What a bummer thing to say, dude. You’re out at the club with your friends, and the woman you’re talking to, her husband is laughing and carrying on and dancing like that. 

  2. Joanne’s little monologue about her first husband gets cut up a little bit, I’m guessing just to modernize the context of the story. Let’s compare:


    2018: New text is in bold.
    JOANNE: “……..I mean, I still really dont know quite where Chicago is.  It’s over there somewhere. (She points.) He used to call me every night. For months, we would both be sitting on the phone long distance, just breathing at each other. After a while what more is there to say?

    Pause.

    BOBBIE: The phone is a phenomenon. Really. The best way for two people to be connected and detached at the same time.

    JOANNE: Second only to marriage. Anyway,
    he said he didn’t really plan to come back…. So I knew we were in a tiny dilemma – or at least he was. I was still too young.

  3. Line change, when Larry returns from dancing. Are we trading in religious jokes for….what is that, militaristic?  
    1. Joanne, 1995: We already gave.
    2. Joanne, 2018: The eagle has landed.

  4. 2018 removed the bold part from Joanne’s 1995 lines: “I only dance when you can touch. I don’t think that standing bumping around and making an ass out of oneself is a dance.”

  5. 2018 *added* Joanne’s line in the middle of this exchange from 1995 (new line is bolded). I’m not sure what it adds to the moment other than the fact that Patti Lupone gets to say it and it’s very funny. 

    LARRY (to ROBERT/BOBBIE): “Was I that good?
    ROBERT/BOBBIE: Very. Excellent. Amazingly good.”
    JOANNE: Just sit there and catch your breath – or whatever you chorus boys do.
    LARRY: Joanne, I love it when you’re jealous. Kiss me.

  6. A few changes in Joanne’s lines before her big song.

    1995:
    SIR. TWO MORE BOURBONS AND A VODKA STINGER! SIR! (To Larry and Robert) Do you know that we are suddenly at an age where we find ourselves too young for the old people and too old for the young people. We’re nowhere. I think we better drink to us . To us – the generation gap. (She yells at the other women in the club) WE ARE THE GENERATION GAP! (To Larry and Robert) Are they staring at me? Let ‘em stare–let ‘em, those broads. What else have they got to do – all dressed up with no place to go.

    2018:
    SIR! SIR, SIR! Better get your identification out, Larry. TWO MORE BOURBONS AND A VODKA STINGER! SIR! Do you know that I am suddenly at an age where I find myself too young for the old people and too old for the young people. I’m nowhere. I think I better drink to me.  To me – the generation gap. (She yells at the other patrons in the club) I AM THE GENERATION GAP! (To Larry and Bobbie) Are they staring at me? Let ‘em stare–let ‘em, This whole country is about the young. And it’s about money. And if you ain’t got one you sure better have the other. (To the other patrons) STOP STARING! 

  7. So, the many times I’ve heard these songs, they never meant much to me. Seeing them both performed, on stage, within the context of this final scene in this extraordinary show completely changed how I thought and felt about these songs. Being Alive is a gorgeous meditation on what we all need to feel satisfied in life. Ladies Who Lunch is a wry and funny, if a bit mean spirited, indictment of the younger women on the playing field that Joanne is now, perhaps, a teeny tiny bit intimidated by? When you listen to the song, there’s so much power there, and it’s often played for laughs so Joanne’s pain is obscured. But could she be making fun of the other women in the song to feel better about being a lady who lunches?

  8. Lyric change: “optical arts” (1995) changed to “digital arts” (2018)

  9. Lyric change: “Here’s to the girls who play wife”” >>> “Here’s to the girls in their prime”

  10. Life magazine swapped out for Time.

  11. The lyrics of Being Alive are another gut punch doozy from Mr Sondheim. They speak to the dualities and challenges of love. Yes, those things are all hard and annoying…. But also a reminder that it’s a two way street: not only do we have to let somebody in and spare someone else’s feelings or have somebody hurt us too deep or sit in our chairs, but we are that somebody to them. We must have our feelings spared, and sit in their chair and ruin their sleep. In this moment, we are – I am – the ‘somebody’ being sung about, not necessarily the one(s) doing the singing. How awful and lovely it is to expose oneself in such a way to another person. This is the moment when Robert/Bobbie’s defense finally comes down and s/he’s ready to be known intimately by another.

    Someone you have to let in, someone whose feelings you spare, someone who, like or not will want you to share, a little lot….” 

    “Somebody hold me too close, somebody hurt me too deep, somebody sit in my chair and ruin my sleep and make me aware of being alive…”

  12. One of the things I love about this show is how it does not glorify marriage, nor entirely vilify it. Even though the coupled-up characters all sing marriage’s praises, the action on stage and much of the dialogue showcase the less romantic reality: it is an eternal contradiction, wonderful and awful and fun and dull and soul-crushing and soul-saving, all simultaneously. It is infuriating and comforting, beautiful and flawed. Marriage is a constant negotiation, between two people, that is ever changing and can make you feel a dozen emotions all at once.  And this song is a great example of that. Though it is not specifically about marriage, it speaks to the complicated relationship we can have with someone we love, the challenges of intimacy and giving someone such an important space in our life. And how letting someone truly know you, exposing your vulnerabilities, and letting go enough to let them love you makes you feel alive (even if that feeling is tinged with annoyance because that person is in your gd chair lol). 

  13. Now, I understand that the intent of the scene/song is pining for a deep intimacy and love that Robert/Bobbie has never known, but there’s a small part of my married brain that hears this lament as a reason as why one might swear off  romantic relationships; what if, in this moment, Robert/Bobbie realizes they actually do have a very full life amongst their friends, with the grand company they already love and who already loves them? 

  14. While my first thoughts were of my husband, I have to admit that this song made me think of my relationships with friends and family as well. My closest female friendships give me similar levels of joy and satisfaction (but in different ways) as my marriage, and I would be lost without them. But when you’ve been friends with someone for 10 or 20 years (oh boy, we’re getting old lol), you’re gonna annoy them – and I know annoy my friends!  I’ve been hurt by and have hurt my friends; my emotional bandwidth for giving has been tested and I have tested theirs; we give each other support in the hard moments, alternating roles as The One In Crisis and the One Who Supports. Truthfully, my best friends know me in ways my husband never can, simply due to his role in my life (and vice versa). I may very well be in the minority here, but the final verse of this song reminds me of my closest relationships, not just my marriage. One person can’t possibly fulfill all of your needs or make you feel alive. But someone who needs you and knows you well and puts you through hell and gives you support…. All of those someones and somebodies could be different people, not the same person. All of those needs can be satisfied by other types of friendships and relationships, by the company in the protagonist’s life. 

  15. I do think Robert/Bobbie is considering all of the existing loves that s/he has in his/her life right now and, and is probably leaning towards wanting to pursue a committed romantic relationship in earnest… but I think the direction of the end of the song and the following scene could explore the opposite choice: 

    The final lyrics of the song:

    But alone
    Is alone
    Not alive
    Somebody crowd me with love
    Somebody force me to care
    Somebody let come through
    I’ll always be there
    As frightened as you
    To help us survive
    Being alive


  16. Imagine the protagonist singing the whole song mostly alone (save for the earlier parts where the characters are urging him/her to ‘keep going’ – these kind of annoying people who keep pushing and pushing and pushing the main character, trying to convince him/her that he/she needs the same type of life path to reach happiness – though in this version, the character voices would come from off stage so we just hear the voices as if they were in our heads). And then, after after she sings “But alone is alone, not alive”, a beat, maybe a whole measure of instrumentals before the final verse; the lights come up on the other characters, standing on stage surrounding the main character as she has a realization and sings the final verse: she has many somebodies crowding her with love, and many somebodies forcing her to care, many somebodies who are always there, just as frightened as her, helping her survive. Despite what her friends keep telling her and what she thinks about herself, she IS alive. What she’s doing now IS living, life doesn’t suddenly start with a committed partner, so she should start enjoying the hell out of her life NOW. 

  17. Ultimately, I think that “Being Alive” will be felt by viewers as they need to hear it at the moment. It’s a good scene for the audience to feel represented by the main character, to be the “I” of the song they’re hearing. While I know 99% of audiences will hear the message of wanting a long-term romantic commitment as Robert/Bobbie’s deepest desire, it hit me very differently when seeing the show in December. I believe it was a combination of Lenk’s performance (which never fully convinced me she wanted Bobbie to ditch single life) and my own ambivalence about marriage. During this scene in particular, I felt like Lenk’s Bobbie was caving to her friends’ social pressure, and at the end was mostly convinced. But then, in the final scene, when she shows up late to her own surprise party, she seems RELIEVED that her friends aren’t there. Her final smirk at the end really threw me off: it felt like she knew a secret that I didn’t, that she’d made a decision but wasn’t about to tell me what it was. (I explain this more fully below.)

  18. Regardless of how the song is played or interpreted by audience members, this song is a powerhouse number honoring the rewards of opening up to someone and, when done well, deserves to be savored. I love how this scene is not rushed, and have enjoyed listening to so many versions of this song. But I have to admit that the Katrina Lenk version left me wanting so much more. Both Raul Esparza and NPH knock it out of the park, and if you haven’t heard Patti sing this song, stop what you’re doing go to YouTube right now.

Act II, Scene Five: 

The shortest scene in the whole show. (Why is it its own scene, and not just an extension of the previous? Is this a playwriting thing?) 

The scene is unchanged from 1995 to 2018, with the exception of stage directions. In it, the friends are all crowded in Robert/Bobbie’s apartment with a birthday candle, waiting to surprise him/her. They’ve been waiting a long time, but Robert/Bobbie hasn’t shown up. They decide to call it a night. 

And this is how it ends:

JOANNE: Okay. All together, everybody. 
ALL: Happy birthday, Robert/Bobbie. 
They exit the apartment, leaving it empty. 

1995 stage directions: From out of the shadows, in the rear of the stage steps Robert. Unbeknownst to us, he has been observing the affection. He now sits on the sofa and takes a moment. Then he smiles, leans forward and blows out the candle. 

2018 stage directions: From out of the shadows steps Bobbie. She enters the apartment, grabs the “35” helium balloons, and pops them with a knife. She then picks up a fire extinguisher and sets it off at the candles. One candle remains lit. She smiles, leans forward and blows out the final candle. 

Curtain. 

To me, this ending could be read and played a couple different ways. 

If, during “Being Alive”, Bobbie realizes she’s been relying on her friends for fulfillment and finally makes the decision to settle down to find someone to build a life with, then this final scene feels like a “F*** You” to her age, gender, and ticking time bomb of a reproductive system. Leave me alone, I’ll find my person on my own time and won’t let my age and impending middle age stop me from finding happiness! She’s finally decided to abandon her single life, and stop trying to find the person, and just find somebody to love. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful, and she finally sees the value in seeking out a committed, romantic relationship.

This same scenario, with Robert, feels less urgent and important. So a 35 year old dude decides to settle down and stop living the bachelor life….Okay…. But a WOMAN making this decision feels more high-stakes due to the assumptions society places upon our gender (“What do you mean you’re 35 and NOT MARRIED? Hurry up! Time is ticking!”) and our historical role as property and having no agency in our lives (“You have to marry him. For the family, for the money, for the business, for the kingdom, because you’re pregnant, because, because, because…”) If SHE actively CHOOSES to pursue a romantic relationship, it’s because SHE wants it and is acting of her own accord, not because it’s what is expected of her or what is thrust upon her. She is choosing love over loneliness, choosing to find company. 

On the other hand… 

If, during “Being Alive”, Bobbie realizes that she already IS alive and fulfilled,  and already HAS all of those things from all of her amazing friends, perhaps in that moment she makes the decision to stop worrying so much about the future to enjoy being alive now. In that case, the final scene feels like a similar kind of “F*** You!” to middle age and society’s expectations on women. A WOMAN choosing not to couple up and simply enjoy her independent, singleton life, whichever way it may take her, is revolutionary, making conservative, traditional people uncomfortable. Can a woman be complete without a partner, without family, without longterm romance? How dare she! But maybe she realizes she already has all the company she’ll ever need. 

In this same scenario with Robert forgoing the traditional marriage path and choosing singledom in favor of the company of his friends….. That feels like a non-event. Historically, men have had the privilege of making their own choices in more scenarios than women. Culturally, men don’t have the same expectations placed upon them in terms of marriage and birthing babies. An ending with a male protagonist choosing to remain single is weak sauce.

Final thoughts in no particular order:

  1. The original show in 1970 was probably revolutionary and thoroughly fresh when it first came out (due mostly to its nonlinear narrative structure), but today feels outdated in its assumptions about and portrayals of the genders. I feel like it doesn’t create a compelling case for marriage AT ALL, and at times is a bit mean spirited. By nixing all sexist and misogynist language, flipping who says which lines, swapping the gender of the protagonist and including a gay couple, it instantly breathes new, relevant, and timely life into the story and characters’ struggles. The married couples are portrayed more realistically and compassionately, and Bobbie’s inner struggles are more urgent as her biological clock ticks (something Robert never had; he could still father children in his 80s). The question of what Bobbie has to “give up to get” (which Jenny says to her) becomes more complex: what must this woman give up in order to find love? Will she choose to do so?

  2. To me, the couples and their marriages are portrayed in a more positive or at least sympathetic light in the 2018 version. There are so many moments in the original text that feels snarkier than the updated version, usually due to demeaning word choices and snide remarks from the husbands. The older version feels much more traditional in its portrayal of Men and Women and Marriage, in that women want it and men don’t, yet everyone feels trapped because they’re gay or feel crazy or are too square or married an alcoholic who won’t work on his addiction. The newer version feels, at least to me, more compassionate towards all of the couples and their flaws, showing them tackling (or ignoring) their problems together. Yes, we may be trapped but we’re trapped together by choice. The very choice that Robert/Bobbie is grappling with. To wed or not to wed. 

  3. Has New York always been the same? It doesn’t seem to matter what medium a story uses to paint a portrait of Manhattan nor does it seem to matter what time period a story takes place in, New York City remains the same: busy, crowded, loud, isolating, lonely, eager, full of possibilities, fueled by dreams and grit and hustle. New York’s newyorkiness comes through clearly in all versions of this show, so that element feels rather timeless. It just might be the greatest city in the world. 😉 

  4. Questions I am now pondering: how would the story resonate if the protagonist were a gay man? a lesbian? trans? how much of the language will feel dated thirty years from now? 

  5. While the original text cracks open the juxtaposition of marriage and doesn’t shy away from the simultaneous challenges and joys, I relate so much more to the female-led version of this show. I relate very deeply to the married couples and their struggles (annoying the shit out of one another over things you’ve always done; having a secret language and way of speaking; sometimes using the company of friends to divert from problems you don’t want to deal with), yet I also relate to the inner struggle of that 35-year-old woman trying to decide what to do next, now that her clock is ticking. What would I do at that stage if I were still single? How would I define “being alive” and would I give in to the “tick tock” reverberating in my brain? So many questions for myself to reflect on.

  6. While I think the authors’ intent was for the protagonist to choose the company of love at the end of the show, I ultimately think the ending means what YOU want it to mean, much like the end of Inception. Did his top keep spinning or did it fall? Does Bobbie choose a singular romantic love or a grander company-approach to her fulfillment?

  7. This review nails it on the head: “Is anything gained with this tinkering? A tremendous amount. By showing husbands as stay-home dads, or men not sticking to gender scripts (after he peels off Bobbie’s red pantsuit in bed, sensitive Andy pauses to compliment her style), by dramatizing how gay marriage can induce waves of assimilation panic, by allowing women to be as casual about sex and settling down as men, Elliott & Co show how our social selves are queerer, fairer, more feminist, and less monolithic than ever before. It’s really there in Furth’s humane, quirky book and Sondheim’s dazzling score; the pronouns just needed shaking up. When the majestic Patti LuPone delivers her “Ladies Who Lunch” for the ages, dripping with venom and sugar, it’s not simply a drunk’s self-loathing screed; Joanne is sharing her anger, insecurity and vulnerability with a kid sister, warning her.”

  8. I fucking love this show. IF YOU GET TO SEE THE REVIVAL, YOU NEED TO SEE IT.  The Broadway production is closing soon, but a touring production will go nationwide in 2023.

Have YOU seen the revival of Company? What versions of the show have you seen or heard? Which version resonates most with you? How do YOU interpret the ending? What are your favorite performances of the songs from the show? 

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