A new gender-reversed production of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's 1970 musical Company will open in London's West End, produced by Elliott Harper Productions, a new production company set up by director Marianne Elliott and theatre producer Chris Harper.
Rosalie Craig will star in the central role of 'Bobbie' in this gender reversed production that has been blessed by Sondheim - the first production to be allowed to change the gender of the characters.
The original production opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on 26 April 1970, where it went on to run for 705 performances and was nominated for a record-setting fourteen Tony Awards, winning six, including Best Musical. The original West End production of Company opened on 18 January 1972, at Her Majesty's Theatre, where it went on to run for 344 performances and reuniting the original cast including Larry Kert, Elaine Stritch, Joy Franz, and Donna McKechnie.
Company has since been revived numerous times in London and New York and is one of Sondheim's most frequently performed musicals. A London revival was mounted at the Donmar Warehouse in 1995 directed by Sam Mendes which later transferred to the Albery Theatre (Noel Coward) for a limited run in 1996. Adrian Lester starred in the lead role of Bobby.
Frequently billed as 'the first concept musical' Company follows Bobby a single man unable to commit fully to a steady relationship or marriage. The show begins on his 35th birthday where we see his interactions with his best friends, five married couples and three girlfriends. The musical explores his relationships through a series of short vignettes, breaking the traditional mould of a book musical. The show was successful as it represented adult themes and reflected back the lives of New Yorkers in a way that hadn't previously been seen in commercial musical theatre.
There have been frequent attempts to stage gender-reversed and queer productions of Company, but this new production is the first to have been officially licensed by Sondheim, who has agreed to changes in the text. It is unclear at this stage how much of the musical will be changed and exactly which characters will be switched, but it will certainly offer a modern perspective on love and marriage, rather than the 1970s style that is usually attempted.
Rosalie Craig is known for her work in musical theatre including the world premiere of Tori Amos's musical The Light Princess at the National Theatre in 2013, for which she was nominated for an Olivier Award. Other credits include City of Angels (Donmar Warehouse), Finding Neverland (Leicester Curve), Ragtime (Regent's Park Open Air Theatre) and London Road at the National Theatre.
Director Marianne Elliott is perhaps best known for her work at the National Theatre on productions such as War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, both of which have enjoyed international success. Her final production as an Associate Director at the National will be the much anticipated revival of Angels in America which opens this May.
No further casting for the West End revival of Company has been announced, although it will form part of her new season which is set to open with Simon Stephens' Heisenberg in Autumn 2017. This will be followed by Oedipus to Antigone in a new adaptation by Yael Farber who will also direct, with Company looking towards a longer run.