When Stephen Sondheim agreed to revive his iconic musical Company, he and the A-list team he assembled undertook the production with great heart.
The winner of five 2022 Tony Awards, including Best Musical Revival, the show’s Philadelphia premiere, starring Britney Coleman as Bobbie, is generating great excitement.
The thought-provoking production, part of the 2023-2024 North American Tour, is playing at the Forrest Theater through December 10. Company, a witty and touching musical comedy masterpiece about the search for love and cocktails in New York, is turned on its head in this revelatory new staging, in which musical theatre’s most iconic bachelor is now a bachelorette. Britney Coleman, who plays Bobbie, has a melodic and powerful voice and stage presence. This is a show that will make you laugh ALOT, and have you shedding a tear or two as you reminisce about your own relationships through the years. It is a window into the choices we make in our lives and the chances we are willing to take for those connections.
At Bobbie’s elaborate 35th birthday party, all her friends are wondering why isn’t she married. Why can’t she find the right man? And, why can’t she settle down and have a family– like they have?
This whip-smart musical comedy, given a game-changing makeover for a modern-day Manhattan, features some of Sondheim’s best-loved songs, including Company, You Could Drive a Person Crazy, The Ladies Who Lunch, Side by Side, and the iconic and heart-tugging Being Alive. The memorable direction was the brainchild of Marianne Elliott, who collaborated closely with Sondheim. The making of this version of this musical was documented on film.
The production opened to critical acclaim on Broadway on December 9, 2021 and was called “gloriously transformative” (The New York Times), “dazzling” (The Hollywood Reporter), “sensational” (Variety), “deeply funny,” (The Washington Post), “a phenomenon that should be experienced in person at least once in this life,” (The New Yorker), and “hands down the best musical production of the season” (New York Post).
Company saw its final performance on Broadway on July 31, 2022, having played 300 performances (268 regular performances and 32 preview performances). The Kimmel Cultural Campus, as a member of the Independent Presenter’s Network, was a producer of the original Broadway revival production and shared in the Tony Award win.
Paul and Jamie are a modern gay couple who are about to get married–in fact, Paul sings the classic (Not) Getting Married Today.” Matt Rodin (who many Broadway fans may know as the Red Carpet Correspondent for Broadway.com) actually received the call back to play Jamie on the day of his actual wedding!
In the role of Paul is Ali Louis Bourzgui, who has performed as Tommy in the Goodman Theater’s The Who’s Tommy Revival, as well as the national tour of The Band’s Visit, and other noteworthy regional theater roles.
“The best writers manage to put in words these broad ideas that we understand. Sondheim is so prolific because he found these words for these feelings,” he said. “It is such an honor to be in this show and share this experience with the cast, crew, and audiences around the country.”
Please read on for a look at Company through the eyes of Ali Louis Bourzgui.
What do you love about this show?
Ali Louis Bourzgui: The first time I fell in love with this show at age 13 or 14, in my phase of starting to listen to musicals. I didn’t have the full knowledge of the score, but the music is so compelling. People know Into the Woods and Sweeny Todd better than this show but I believe that it is truly Sondheim at his best!
Initially, I became more lulled into the music but as I got older the show started to make more sense to me. I’ve known of it for a long time. This story comes into more of a modern age. By switching some of the genders and changing some of the pronouns we get to see how that flips things on its head. For me, it’s about the music and how this show is about romantic connection. I find great beauty in the fact that it doesn’t have to be perfect.
What are some of the highlights for you in the score?
I truly melt over the song, Not Getting Married Today. I find it great fun to sing that iconic little part. In all of the sections I get to be part of the ensemble, when the couples are surrounding Bobbie. We are part of her fever dream. In those moments we get to be a different heightened version of the character. It is such a joy to sing this alongside of my castmate Matt Rodin.
Where and when did the North American Tour begin?
The tour began in Schenectady, New York, in October. We started rehearsing in September and we opened at the place where I went to see all of the tours when I was a kid.
Talk about the dream of your career versus the reality.
One thing I have always been grateful for was having a clear vision of what I wanted. Knew what I wanted to do. I was always performing in some aspects. Toddler, performing, magic shows. Slowly growing up in western mass. Berkshires dance, music, theater, it was so easy for me to get into community theater. Middle school and high school shows.
Pressure from some of my family to do something more stable. A bit of high school thinking of going into engineering. The more I went to Barrington stage and Williamstown, I saw people having this career. Went to college. I’ve been very grateful for having this clear vision and helped me to set up a plan, so far, it’s going well.
What should audiences expect?
A wonderful combination of comedy and drama. It will make you laugh the entire show and those earned moments of being settled and deep emotion. This is true of a lot of musicals. This musical hit the cord of connection of what it means to be lonely. So, many wonderful things about being single. If you are in a relationship there can be all these wonderful things. It speaks to the actual dualities of life. I encourage people to see the progressive changes such as Not Getting Married Today which is about a gay couple and Bobbie is a woman, which reflects our modern-day audiences. It is a lovely group of people, too, and it is diverse and unique.
You play Paul in this show, are you more like him or his partner, Jamie?
Paul is one of Bobbie’s sweet and loving friends. He is married to Jamie and we get a flashback to see how opposite they are. Jamie is flustered, flighty, scared, and neurotic. Paul has had this perfect day planned and he is calm, and can’t wait for it to go insanely well. Paul keeps Jamie grounded and safe and Jamie is a source of joy and laughter for Paul. I am definitely more like Paul. I am putting a lot of myself into this part as a planner, and grounded person, who helps keep a lot of people like Jamie in my life. I love people who get me out of my comfort zone.
Do you enjoy touring?
The Band’s Visit was my first tour. I’m a big walker and explorer so it is fun to go to different cities on someone else’s dime. It is fun to have the day off and explore the cities. I like to find my favorite coffee shop where I can read. It’s hard to take your whole life on your road. You’re not home and all your clothes are in a suitcase, but your life is centered around finding a nature spot.
Did your parents come to see the show?
Yes, I am from Western Massachusetts, so my parents came to Schenectady; to the theater my mom used to take me to see Broadway touring shows. So, it was a full circle moment. My mom has been my biggest supporter who drove me to college and auditions; she’s the reason I am here doing this.
Do you enjoy spending time in Philadelphia?
Yes, very much. My mom and I have close family friends and cousins there. It’s the same reason I love Boston because of all of the old cobblestone and brick buildings there is a class and a charm to the city.
It is certainly not a cookie-cutter musical. So, what do you love about Company?
True. True. It is wild to hear Sondheim’s lyrics. They worked in the ’70s, the late 2000’s, and 2023; they are so brilliant.! I love the feel of the show. Husbands talking about how much they love their wives. Nothing to do with all to do with her. Everything is about your partner in these lives, and what that means to us.
Sondheim, who had just passed away when it opened, was a big part of this production. He approved the changes and he loved them. His presence was felt in the room during the rehearsals. So many of these songs like Being Alive are so famous you can’t help but think about what they mean to us.
For tickets go to:
Tickets can be purchased by calling 212-239-6200, visiting www.telecharge.com, or in person beginning on September 22, 2023, at the Forrest Theatre box office located at 1114 Walnut Street in Philadelphia.