A month ago a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go see the Sondheim musical Company, presented by the amateur Dartmouth Players theatre group. I said sure, because that sounded like a chuckle. I wasn’t at all familiar with the play going in, but I love musicals and figured it would be fun.
This is the plot synopsis:
On the night of his 35th birthday, Robert struggles to think of a wish to make as he blows out his birthday candles. The lone bachelor, surrounded by “those good and crazy people” — his married friends — Robert is uncertain whether he should simply be happy with his lot or whether he should wish for his own romantic partner. Over a series of dinner parties, first dates, and thoughtful conversations, Robert attempts to understand the pros and cons of marriage from his diverse and frequently hilarious friends,, and begins to make sense of his own persistent bachelorhood. Company, Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking modern musical, is a mature, intelligent, and wildly funny look at relationships, vulnerability, and “being alive.”
A few things you need to know:
- when they say “groundbreaking modern musical”, keep in mind that this sucker was launched in 1970
- the main character is therefore supposed to be a Hugh Hefner-type swinging bachelor
- he even has an extended love scene with a uniformed flight attendant
- the entire play centers around why he’s the only person in his social circle who isn’t married
The lead character, Bobby, in on stage for 100% of the scenes. All of the other characters are so inconsequential that I can only remember the name of the flight attendant. He has a ton of songs that require a strong vocal range. The actor playing him had a very good voice, clearly some theatre experience, an expressive face and good stage presence.
He was also clearly and obviously gay.
So gay, in fact, that I spent literally the first three-quarters of the play thinking to myself “well, of course he’s not married, he’s gay, I wonder when he’s going to come out to his friends?”
At this point, one of his couple friends has a very amicable divorce. Robert is talking to the erstwhile husband, who confesses his love for Robert and propositions him at a party. “Ah hah!” I thought. “I was right! He IS gay! I never knew Sondheim did anything like this!”
Spoiler alert: He didn’t. The character of Robert is not supposed to be gay, at all.
It was so weird, guys. Like, on the face of it, the sexual orientation of the actor shouldn’t matter, right? But in this case, IT DID. The character had to be a thoroughly heterosexual male, and when the actor couldn’t pull that off, it changed the entire tone and plot of the play.
It was really a shame, because he was so hopelessly miscast that all the hard work of the whole theatre group was wasted.
So that was my little adventure this evening. I know, by the way, that this post is disjointed, but notice the time! I am just barely squeaking this post in under the wire. I did it!