To hear the solid of Broadway’s Company inform it, the business’s shutdown one 12 months in the past at the moment was maybe extra stunning than shocking, arriving swiftly however perhaps not swiftly sufficient. For not less than a few the musical’s preview performances main as much as the town’s historic closing of March 12, 2020, the stage jitters had little to do with the same old pre-opening evening nerves. In reality, the present was doing very properly – the revival and its largest star Patti LuPone had been successful in London, Broadway performances with LuPone and an in any other case new American solid had been falling into place, advance ticket gross sales had been sturdy, audiences had been delighted, and the spring Tony Award season had its most anticipated pairing in LuPone and The Band’s Visit‘s Katrina Lenk, one a real icon of the theater, the opposite certainly one of two or three extra just lately arrived stars with the expertise, the pull and the center to face beside her. And all in a revival of a Stephen Sondheim-George Furth masterpiece that had been given a recent, gender-switching take by the Tony-winning Angels in America director Marianne Elliott.
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“Everyone was feeling really secure in their work,” says actor Bobby Conte Thornton, who performs PJ, the Company character previously named Marta and blessed with one of many present’s tongue-twisting show-stoppers “Another Hundred People.” “But then we heard rumblings about this virus from another continent. There was an usher at Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Booth who had it. I think that was sort of the beginning of the end.”
Everyone is aware of the remainder. Broadway shut its doorways and turned out its lights on March 12, 2020, an prompt metaphor for Covid-19’s catastrophic impression on enterprise, the humanities and New York City itself. In the 12 months since, Broadway has been a bellwether within the metropolis’s ongoing hibernation, as one shutdown extension adopted one other till even Summer 2021 started to look like a pipedream.
But now, with the arrival of no fewer than three efficient vaccines and for the time in twelve very lengthy months, producers can discuss a 2021-22 Broadway season with out sounding like determined Pollyannas or a mendacious president. “I’m hopeful that in the next couple of months the governor will give us the green light that Fall is possible,” says Company producer Chris Harper, “that around April or May we’ll have clarity as to when Broadway will be able to reopen with full capacity. That’s when we would announce tickets going back on sale.” The plan, Harper says, is to convey Company again within the fall, although Spring 2022 stays a chance as properly.
Until then, the $13 million manufacturing should maintain itself on what Broadway Journal editor Philip Boroff has reported is an $8.8 million enterprise interruption insurance coverage payout from Chubb, an quantity roughly equal to 9 weeks of 80% potential ticket gross sales on the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
Even with the solid, crew and musicians off payroll, the previous 12 months, Harper says, has been tough. (The producer wouldn’t verify the particular greenback figures). “We’ve had to make sure that what money we do have is able to last us for a significant period of time,” he says. “It’s been very tricky, a really difficult process to survive.”
“The reason why I feel so confident about bringing the show back is because we had a fantastic advance when we closed,” Harper continued, expressing conviction that the complete Broadway solid will return. “People were booking in very large numbers, but once everything was canceled, all of the tickets were refunded. So we’ll be starting from zero.”
In latest months, Deadline has carried out a sequence of interviews with all 14 principal solid members of Company, every performer sharing insights, hopes and fears, and a 12 months’s experiences – personally, professionally, economically, emotionally – as they discover their manner by way of an unprecedented disaster of their business and their metropolis.
“My dilemma,” says LuPone, “is, Will I have the energy to go back to work? Will I have the energy, especially, to go back on stage? I mean, I am a descendent of Italian peasants, so I have phenomenal energy. But will I have stage fright? Will I be able to get back on the bike? I don’t know that, and I also don’t know if I even want to. It’s been so long that I’m questioning my desire to continue in this business.”
In this primary installment in a multi-part sequence, LuPone, Lenk, Thornton, Matt Doyle, Christopher Fitzgerald, Christopher Sieber, Jennifer Simard, Terence Archie, Etai Benson, Nikki Renée Daniels, Claybourne Elder, Greg Hildreth, Kyle Dean Massey and Rashidra Scott describe the walk-up to Company‘s first Broadway preview at the Shubert Organization’s Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on March 2, 2020. Opening evening was scheduled for March 22, Sondheim’s ninetieth birthday.
All interviews, carried out individually, have been edited and condensed for size and readability.
Company Announcement, August 30, 2019: Elliott & Harper Productions and The Shubert Organization introduced at the moment that on the heels of its Olivier Award-winning, sensational hit run in London’s West End, the visionary new manufacturing of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s landmark American musical, Company, directed by two-time Tony Award winner Marianne Elliott, will open on Broadway this spring. The manufacturing will star Tony and Grammy Award winner Katrina Lenk as Bobbie, whereas two-time Tony Award and two-time Grammy Award winner Patti LuPone will reprise her unforgettable, Olivier Award-winning flip as Joanne.
The quintessential musical comedy concerning the seek for love and cocktails within the Big Apple is turned on its head in Elliott’s revelatory staging, wherein musical theater’s most iconic bachelor turns into a bachelorette. At Bobbie’s (Lenk) thirty fifth party, all her buddies are questioning why isn’t she married? Why can’t she discover the best man? And, why can’t she cool down and have a household? This whip good musical, given a game-changing makeover for a modern-day Manhattan, options a few of Sondheim’s greatest liked songs, together with “Company,” “You Could Drive a Person
Crazy,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “Side by Side,” and the enduring “Being Alive.”
Kyle Dean Massey (performs Theo, renamed from the unique Kathy) I auditioned and bought the job and so then I got here again to New York from California on January fifth or sixth to begin rehearsals. I needed to discover an residence to hire, take out a lease and truly furnish it and transfer in as a result of I used to be anticipated to be there for a 12 months.
Claybourne Elder (Andy, initially April) Most of my skilled profession has been doing Stephen Sondheim exhibits someplace on Broadway or in any other case. My first job ever was in a Stephen Sondheim, his final new musical, at The Public Theater referred to as Road Show. When I heard of this manufacturing and heard that it was coming over I used to be like, oh, it’s far an excessive amount of to dream that I’ll get to try this present as a result of I would like it manner too badly and often those you need so badly are those you by no means get. But I did. I bought solid.
Katrina Lenk (Bobbie, initially Robert) When Company was occurring in London, I keep in mind being obsessive about it. In my mind I used to be making an attempt to determine perhaps there was a way I might simply go and see it. When I heard that they had been going to be doing a manufacturing on Broadway with an all-American solid, I used to be tremendous thrilled.
Christopher Sieber (Harry) I had finished a manufacturing of Company in Los Angeles, a live performance model. I performed Bobby, and I by no means needed to try this present as Bobby ever once more. You by no means go away the stage, it’s all about you, and it’s rather a lot. A beast of a component. After I did it I went into some type of psychological spiral for a few days, down a rabbit gap.
So fast-forward, and I used to be doing a present referred to as The Prom on Broadway that I helped create with Beth Leavel, Brooks Ashmanskas, Angie Schworer, Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin, the entire gang. I used to be requested if I needed to audition for this Company revival that they’d been doing in London the place Bobby is performed by a lady. I stated completely – as a result of I knew that I couldn’t be Bobby.
Jennifer Simard (Sarah) My first audition was in August of 2019, and I used to be very fortunately employed at Mean Girls on Broadway. I went in probably not considering I used to be going to get it, however I’ve been a fan of Sondheim and this whole group for a really very long time, and I assumed, properly, how can I not attempt? Like all issues in life, when it rains it pours, and all good issues appear to occur without delay. It was laborious for me to present my discover at Mean Girls, however I used to be so delighted to get entangled with Company. The unique Company opened on Broadway the identical 12 months I used to be born, so I used to be actually trying ahead to the parallel of the present turning 50 the identical 12 months I used to be turning 50. And when rehearsals began in January, I used to be reunited with my good previous pal Christopher Sieber, whom I first met once we had been each slicing our enamel in our 20s, after which we did Shrek collectively years afterward Broadway. And now right here we’re enjoying husband and spouse. Just a pleasant time, you recognize?
Nikki Renée Daniels (Jenny) I used to be in Hamilton in Chicago for many of 2019, so I used to be flying backwards and forwards from New York to Chicago. When I noticed that Company was occurring in London and that it was coming to Broadway, I requested my brokers if I might be seen for the position of Jenny. I’d seemed on the London solid and Jenny was the Black girl. And I’m a Black girl. I figured that they had been most likely on the lookout for an individual of coloration for that position. It seems they ended up casting each Jenny and Susan as Black ladies. So I closed in Hamilton on January 5 and began rehearsals for Company in New York on January 6. It was fairly a whirlwind.
Bobby Conte Thornton (PJ, initially Marta) I keep in mind after I was a youngster I watched the John Doyle manufacturing of Company on Great Performances on PBS, and that was the primary Sondheim present I’d ever seen. It very a lot put me on a path in the direction of eager to commit my life to creating a dwelling enjoying faux. The proven fact that I used to be provided the chance to be concerned with this present now was very heartwarming and serendipitous and simply so overwhelming to that 14-year-old child. We did about six weeks of rehearsals, which could be very uncommon, particularly for a present that had already had a manufacturing elsewhere. Marianne was imploring us to convey our particular person selves and sensibilities and eccentricities to the fabric to make it really feel alive and recent and actual.
Greg Hildreth (Peter) I had the Company vinyl solid recording in center faculty and highschool, and wore it out. I went to an all-boys personal Catholic faculty that was, like, a hockey faculty, so I believe I used to be probably the one boy listening to “Sorry/Grateful” and considering I knew what it meant. When I did Company in faculty, earlier than I lived within the metropolis, it appeared like this fantasy of New York. I used to be obsessive about how the characters discuss and behave within the metropolis, how cool all of it appeared. Now that I’m an individual who talks and behaves like that, I nonetheless assume “Sorry/Grateful” is likely one of the best songs ever written for musical theater. In these occasions once we’re all compelled to be with our vital others 24 hours a day, and we’re bouncing off the partitions, that music actually speaks to me.
Rashidra Scott (Susan) I used to be doing Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations on Broadway after I bought the audition for the position of Susan within the Company revival. I wasn’t actually considering something of it. I’m the least educated musical theater actress you most likely will ever meet in your life. I needs to be ashamed of myself, however I didn’t understand it was a bunch of various vignettes taken from George Furth’s work. So I’m studying by way of it, making an attempt to determine the storyline and a background and I’m not discovering something. I spent the day between Ain’t Too Proud exhibits one Saturday The Kennedy Center manufacturing I discovered online. It nonetheless didn’t assist.
But I used to be speaking to a bunch of my actually good girlfriends – 4 of us who’re working actresses, and I name us the Blacktresses. We’d kindled our sisterhood friendship on the ultimate callback for Head Over Heels on Broadway, which none of us bought however we not less than bought this nice sisterhood out of it. Now three of the 4 of us had an appointment to go learn for this Company audition. Two of us saved telling one of many ladies, “You do know you’re going to book this, right? Because I keep reading this part and all I keep hearing is you doing this role.” The audition was Monday and I consider it was both Saturday evening or Sunday that I stated to her, “I’m not going because it doesn’t make sense. You’re going to book it so what’s the point of going in for something that clearly has your name written on it. Besides I’m tired from eight shows a week of Ain’t Too Proud. I’m not going in.”
Well, they in a short time put me in my place. “We do not turn down principal auditions. You are going in for this and one of us is going to book it.” Five-and-a-half weeks later, my girlfriends had been the primary folks I referred to as after I hung up from my agent. They couldn’t have been extra excited.
Matt Doyle (Jamie, initially Amy) Marianne Elliott referred to as me in to learn for the character of Paul, Jamie’s great, loving and doting husband. I’d labored with Marianne on War Horse and we had been very, very shut throughout that course of, so I knew that if she thought I used to be proper for Jamie she would have referred to as me in for Jamie. I even really requested my agent to double verify on it and so they stated, no, she needs to see you for Paul. Within the primary 30 seconds Marianne stated, oh, gosh, you are a Jamie. She requested me to study “Getting Married Today,” and gave me 24 hours. My associate, Max Clayton, was opening in Moulin Rouge! that evening, and I needed to miss it. I simply stated, “I have to stay home. I can’t go in front of Marianne tomorrow and screw this up.”
Terence Archie (Larry) I went by way of a few auditions, and bought a very good really feel for it and felt good about it. I bought the provide and we began rehearsing in January of final 12 months, which doesn’t even appear that way back. We had been per week away from opening once we actually began listening to rumors of elevated circumstances of this new virus.
“There’s This Thing That Is Happening In China”
Claybourne Elder The large first problem I confronted was realizing that my character was purported to be in actually good bodily form and I used to be going to be in my underwear on Broadway. I do know that feels like such an odd factor to fret and stress about, however I knew that was such an essential a part of the character, and I’m not an individual that’s all the time in actually fine condition.
So I’m understanding for months and months, even earlier than rehearsal began, actually making an attempt to get within the form that I felt was acceptable for the character, for the joke about him being type of dumb and good-looking. Now, I’m a father of a three-year-old, who on the time was a two-year-old, and waking up at 7 with him, getting him to daycare, going to rehearsal all day, coming residence, after which going to the gymnasium. I used to be getting New York Times notifications about this Covid factor popping up on my telephone, however I’m so busy going 100 miles an hour that I’m simply probably not taking note of it.
Rashidra Scott About a 12 months earlier than I moved to the town I used to be on the opening group of Hong Kong Disneyland. Most of that ensemble solid is Hong Kong, Chinese locals. So I had been seeing my buddies from there posting about this factor, and I knew that lots of China and Hong Kong was shut down, however it was additionally a kind of ignorance is bliss issues. Plus I used to be in the midst of leaving one present in the midst of the vacations, going to a different present, and I used to be probably not paying consideration.
It was the dad and mom within the present like Nikki Rene, who’s my dressing-room mate, and Chris Fitz and a few folks on the crew who began speaking about being afraid to ship their youngsters to high school. Nikki spent her complete dinner break three or 4 days in a row going to each drugstore looking for disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer.
Christopher Fitzgerald (David) The first inkling I bought was really from my spouse, Jessica Stone, who’s a director. She was in preproduction on a present, and a designer that she was working with had been in China. Maybe a month at the beginning began occurring right here, this designer talked about to Jessica on the telephone, like, “Hey, there’s this thing that is happening in China, and it’s kind of freaking me out.” So we simply began to observe what was occurring extra rigorously than I felt like lots of my colleagues had been. That’s not a criticism, it was simply that my spouse occurred to have this very, very clear connection to what was occurring. I used to be the one at work that was beginning to be like, hey guys, have you ever heard about this?
Etai Benson (Paul) Christopher Fitzgerald, whose dressing room is true throughout from mine, was selecting up on it somewhat sooner than the remainder of us had been, from what I recall. None of us knew to take it as severely as we ended up taking it. We all thought, okay, that is one thing that’ll go. We’re the United States of America and these items doesn’t actually occur right here. But Christopher was digging deep into the information and he would come to us and say, guys, I believe that is going to close us down, I actually assume so. My dressing room mate, Greg Hildreth and I had been extra like let’s wait and see. I wouldn’t say we laughed it off, however we had been, like, let’s not get too panicky about this.
Bobby Conte Thornton Like any preview course of, it’s nearly attending to really feel like you will have a way of possession over the fabric, slowly however certainly, particularly as you add the required collaborator – the viewers. We had been feeling actually shut, a pair exhibits away from freezing it, that means that you just’re not making modifications. We had been given the generosity of the George Furth Estate to have entry to each earlier incarnation of Company, together with the vignettes that had been written pre-1970 that the musical is actually primarily based off of. He had written a movie therapy, he had written a lot of performs, all of which we had entry to. Even if we had been placing new phrases and new components into the present, they had been nonetheless George Furth’s phrases, and naturally all the things that was modified was cleared by Stephen Sondheim.
Christopher Sieber The crowds had been going nuts. The line was down the block to get a ticket. But even earlier than our first preview we type of bought an inkling of one thing coming. Normally, you get to ask family and friends and so they can come backstage, however the Shuberts stated no backstage guests. They couldn’t even meet us within the alleyway. There was no autograph line. They stated we couldn’t even signal Playbills.
Kyle Dean Massey I assumed it was being sensationalized, fairly actually. There’s all the time a giant deal about this stuff, after which nothing actually occurs. Then in the future it was like one thing had turned, and it abruptly grew to become actually scary. Our final couple of exhibits to me felt irresponsible. We had been listening to of ushers subsequent door testing constructive and right here we had been on this previous, tiny theater, completely offered out, folks shoulder-to-shoulder, and the present wasn’t actually enjoying the identical. People weren’t laughing, you recognize? An individual within the viewers may cough and it was simply, like, this deafening silence. I’ve this very intimate scene with Katrina Lenk the place I’m very, very near her face and I simply keep in mind considering oh, gosh, enunciate however don’t let any spit fly out of your mouth.
Nikki Renée Daniels There’s a celebration sport part of the quantity “Side by Side,” the place Katrina and two different folks should go an orange to one another utilizing their mouths, and we’re all type of like cringing, like, ought to we actually be including this into the present proper now? Chris Fitzgerald, who performs my husband, and I’ve somewhat kiss in a single second and in rehearsal we wouldn’t do it. I don’t know what we thought we had been avoiding, now that we all know how the virus works, however little issues had began to creep into the ambiance about how we felt being in that theater.
Christopher Fitzgerald There’s this sense if you work within the theater, particularly on Broadway, that the present should go on. We have one thing in our guts which blinds us to any ache we endure simply making an attempt to be actors and being a part of this enterprise and this course of the place the chances are in opposition to us. You get in that mode the place it’s very laborious to advocate for what you want, and for what is sensible, as a result of actually what’s driving you much more is the necessity to inform the story. When the theater is asking you, actual life is a bizarre factor you push off to the aspect. So there was lots of hemming and hawing about methods to deal with this, what to do, who to hearken to, methods to transfer ahead. Do I say to my director and producer that I’ve bought to give up? That I don’t wish to are available tonight? Do I name my union and say, what are you guys doing to deal with what’s occurring proper now? When the NBA canceled its season, my coronary heart sank, and my survival instincts clicked in.
We had a number of totally different conferences with the producers and the Shubert Organization, who’re the theater house owners, to debate what they knew, and what they had been doing. We had been in certainly one of these conferences, most likely the day earlier than issues shut down, and we’d had perhaps finished a rehearsal, and other people had been type of airing their fears, and producers had been doing their greatest to say what they had been doing and the way they had been evaluating issues and the way we had been nonetheless going to do the present that evening, and it was all very tense and regarding.
And then one member of the corporate, not an actor however anyone who I believe was doing the magic within the present, there’s a couple of illusions, and he raised his hand and stated, “Is there somewhere I can go at intermission? Because when intermission happens, there’s a huge flood of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people lining up for the bathrooms right here, and there’s just no place for me to go.” I nonetheless really feel that hot-neck, barely sick-to-my-stomach feeling, imagining all these folks all crowded downstairs on this foyer, proper by the place they serve the drinks on this very useless, no-air house. All these older folks crowded collectively at intermission to make use of the lavatory. And it was like, oh my god.
I enter the stage from the viewers, and the expertise of strolling by way of the viewers grew to become an increasing number of surreal. Standing there amongst 1000’s of individuals, laughing and having fun with themselves, and I’m feeling like I knew one thing that they didn’t know, and simply feeling dread, and horror, and concern.
“You don’t have a show tonight, do you?”
Claybourne Elder I don’t do not forget that final efficiency in any respect as a result of it was simply one other preview. In reality I joked – and this has kind of haunted me – however on the way in which out of the theater I stated, “Alright everybody, see you in two weeks because we’re going to get shut down.” It appeared so ridiculous that I didn’t thoughts joking about it out loud.
The subsequent day, I went to the gymnasium earlier than rehearsal and I used to be within the locker room and somebody got here as much as me and stated, you don’t have a present tonight, do you? I used to be like, yeah, we now have a present tonight. He stated, Oh, no, Broadway simply bought fully shut down. I keep in mind standing there on the gymnasium actually not realizing what to do or the place to go. I hadn’t had free time in so lengthy I didn’t even know what to do. So I referred to as my husband and I stated I’m ordering a pizza and I’m selecting up a cake and we’re going to go residence and I’m going to eat no matter I would like.
Christopher Sieber I dwell out in New Jersey so I’ve to go away at like 9, 9:30 within the morning to get to rehearsals that all the time start at 11 a.m. So I referred to as our manufacturing stage supervisor, Tim Semon, and I stated Tim, ought to I even are available at the moment? And he says no, don’t are available.
Katrina Lenk I used to be on my technique to meet Patti to do some press, and I bought a name on the way in which saying since I’m close to the theater I ought to simply go and get some issues from my dressing room as a result of we is likely to be shutting down for a bit. There was no type of epiphany for me, as a result of Broadway doesn’t simply shut down. There was that one time when Hurricane Sandy hit when it was shut for a pair days, however that was it. I had this bizarre kind of disbelief. So I simply grabbed two issues from my dressing room – silly stuff, like oh, I would like that orange I left there yesterday. Well, good factor I bought that orange, huh?
Patti LuPone Chris Harper, our producer, stated it’ll be perhaps two weeks, three weeks. I left my dressing room anticipating to go proper again to work.
Katrina Lenk It appeared like, oh, will probably be good to have a pair days off as a result of we’re all exhausted and to have a pair days to sleep appeared, properly, not so unhealthy. At least there was the reduction of lastly realizing one thing. It was solely later that there was the despair of, God, this might go on and on endlessly.
Jennifer Simard I’m probably not a pessimist nor an optimist. I’m a realist. The husband and I began shopping for some rice and a few quinoa simply in case. You’re higher off being extra ready than shocked. I’ll say, although, that your self protection mechanism kicks in and also you assume, Is this actually going to final a 12 months? Behind closed doorways, we thought July appeared just like the outset.
Bobby Conte Thornton It was going to be three weeks of shutdown, and after a giant convention name, the corporate supervisor stated does anybody have any questions? And I keep in mind Chris Sieber saying yeah, what am I purported to do with out seeing you guys daily? And that basically hit us, like, oh, that is actual.
Terence Archie The leisure business could be insecure sufficient as it’s, and not using a government-mandated lockdown. Thoughts had began crossing my thoughts, in addition to the minds of my colleagues, as to what’s going to we do with out theater? Without our livelihood? Just on a private stage, how would we make a dwelling?
And then we started imagining greater. We imagined New York City with out theater. America with out theater. The world with out theater, with out artwork basically. That line of considering inevitably results in a larger appreciation and understanding of the worth of artwork, of the worth of theater. I began to assume that when non-theater folks work their nine-to-fives, what do they do with their earnings? They spend it on the theater, on leisure. When we wish to categorical ourselves however want the car of relatability, theater is the factor that displays us onto ourselves and holds us communally accountable.
I believe we began to really feel – I began to really feel – the vacuum, in simply seeing how bored folks had been, and the way folks would have a tough time expressing themselves after they couldn’t even meet one another. I believe it made me wish to be higher and extra succinct at what I do, and perhaps even apply some sense of holiness to the duty at hand of the theater artist. It started to look so important.
Coming up in Part II:
Patti LuPone I stated goodbye to the Jacobs, after which I assumed, No, goodbye to the Royale, as a result of the Royale had been a way more elegant theater identify than the Jacobs. And then I burst into tears and stated goodbye to my life within the theater…
Greg Hildreth Every time the Broadway League declares an extension of the shutdown, it feels such as you’ve simply proposed marriage to anyone and he or she says “I’ll marry you. Just not yet.”
Matt Doyle The actuality of how extreme the sickness might be was nonetheless one thing that wanted to sink in…and that didn’t actually occur till a buddy of ours was dying. When Nick Cordero bought sick we had been making him movies and sending them to his spouse and considering there’s simply no manner we’re going to lose him. This man is so sturdy, so wholesome, so lively.