‘Company’ Opening Night: Patti LuPone Remembers Stephen Sondheim

Patti LuPone took her seat on the phase of the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre and readied herself, drenched in jewels and a flowing fur coat, for “The Females Who Lunch,” the famous Act II showstopper in “Company.” It was opening night, and Stephen Sondheim wasn’t in the viewers.

Over the earlier two months, what was a celebrated reimagination of Sondheim’s to start with good musical, published in collaboration with the English director Marianne Elliott and starring Katrina Lenk as Bobbie, had grow to be some thing entirely distinctive — a residing, respiratory memorial to its creator, saddled with the duty of getting the to start with Sondheim musical, blessed by the composer and lyricist, to open on Broadway right after his loss of life.

As LuPone took her seat on the platform, prepared to force forward onto the stage and conjure the messy alchemy of humor, ambivalence and tragedy, which Elaine Stritch initial lodged into the range, the fat of that moment and duty was unlike nearly anything LuPone had skilled in her vocation.

“I could not place my finger on what was heading on in my head,” she advised Wide variety following the exhibit, still grappling with the bodyweight of the occasion. “I’ve hardly ever absent by this right before. I have under no circumstances been in a display that had this considerably joy, this substantially grief, this significantly force.”

There are some exceptional occasions in musical theater in which the difficult alchemy of music and emotion cascading from the phase, a theatrical quick, can develop into bigger than alone, than the exhibit or instant to which it belongs. On Thursday night, as LuPone, achieving the climax of “Ladies Who Lunch,” commanded the viewers to “rise — in that moment, for Sondheim, for the legacy he remaining driving, and for an market which remained shuttered for far more than a yr — she stayed seated, humbled as all of Sondheim’s figures had been, by the enormous gravity of dwelling lifestyle.

“Michael Bennet, George Furth and Steve Sondheim are all dead, and that is what I was imagining about,” she mentioned just after the demonstrate, just getting left her dressing place to head down the road to “Company’s” afterparty at the Civilian Lodge. “I puzzled — I desperately desired to know — that if there was a heaven, ended up they observing? Have been they in the theater with us just then?”

“And,” the diva, a Sondheim muse and near mate, requested, “Did they approve?”

For numerous in the forged on Thursday, who had the privilege of doing the job with Sondheim as they geared up the show, both in its preview operate in advance of the pandemic and immediately after, the reply to LuPone’s dilemma was confident.

“Steve loved the 1st evening of previews a lot more than opening night time,” Jennifer Simard, who performs Sarah, informed Range soon after the present. “He was there on our very first night, and we acquired our time with him then,” she stated. “I’m a agency believer that almost everything occurs for a motive. So, I guess this was the system.”

By now, it’s properly documented that Elliott’s “Company” is a hefty reinvention of Sondheim’s perform, not basically gender-swapping the roles of Bobby and Amy, but pairing Elliott’s evocative present-day style with an archival mine of George Furth’s early notes to reconfigure considerably of the musical into a recognizable narrative of modern day adore and angst.

“It was as if we had been doing work on a new musical alongside one another,” Elliott, acutely aware that Sondheim defined himself by his collaborators, instructed Wide variety. “We poured blood into this, and so did he.”

For Matt Doyle, whose Jamie — alternatively of Amy — sings “I’m Not Acquiring Married Now,” Elliott’s aesthetic and narrative alterations meant extra to the composer than other people realized.

“We forget about what a significant offer it is to have Jamie and Paul on that stage in a Sondheim musical. And he mentioned that to me,” Doyle outlined about the composer, who died in his household nearby his husband and whose sexuality was curiously distanced all over his occupation. “He could not believe that it wasn’t a massive offer for folks, mainly because it was innovative for him.”

Extended soon after the viewers had remaining — with company like Donna Murphy, Betty Buckley, Cynthia Nixon, Sarah Paulson, Billy Eichner, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Leslie Odom Jr. and authentic solid member Pamela Myers — and the confetti experienced been cleared from 45th Road, Lenk, “Company’s” new Bobbie, was last to leave the theater.

On her way to the social gathering, she contemplated “Being Alive,” among the Sondheim’s finest lyrical compositions and a amount which at “Company’s” conclusion features Bobbie no happy ending, but, within her character’s limits, a real looking one.

“Every evening the music can have a distinctive colour, since of whatever was knowledgeable that day,” she reported. “Everybody, just about every audience, needs to attempt for this means and for permanence, on opening evening or any night time.”

“Tonight,” she concluded, “‘Being Alive’ was about performing my best to honor him, to do what all of his musicals commanded of us — to be as human as we can in each individual instant.”