Storytelling aside I didn't find it an easy piece to engage with; Young is a very strong leading man but his character isn't just hard to like, he's hard to get a hold on. The aforementioned final song sees him accepting that despite his reservations he really does want to share his life with someone, but elsewhere we've seen him already be rather fixated on marriage, less so on who exactly he'd like to be marrying, so what exactly is the big revelation here? The real strength is in the music, with the songs displaying a lot more variety of style than many other Sondheim pieces. The Act II opener "Side by Side by Side" is probably the standout moment, accompanied by the show's only big dance number (choreographed by Sam Spencer-Lane) which the cast handle so well it's a shame there's not more of them.
Director Joe Fredericks has set the 1970 musical in the present day, which didn't really work for me. iPhones and references to Prozac are one thing but having 30- and 40-somethings in 2011 New York say they don't know any black people just looks odd, and the show's relentless focus on marriage is quite out-of-date in itself, with one of the women apparently having spent her life defining herself as the wife she intends to be. Still, the cast are excellent, the songs are well-performed and the whole production is slick (although was it a deliberate decision by lighting designer Mike Robertson to have a noisy spotlight always whirr into its next position during the quietest part of any given scene?) Even Sondheim fan vanessaw was more subdued about the show overall than she usually is. Some individual moments and songs are absolutely fantastic but the show as a whole is one I found hard to love.
Company by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth is booking until the 12th of March at Southwark Playhouse.