This post follows in a series, as replies to viewing shows, mostly at the Pittsburgh Public Theater and elsewhere. Just my thoughts- a gay man’s perspective. ”Marriage” just seems to be the issue in everyone’s face this week, and a trip to the theater to see Company at the Pittsburgh Public was in keeping with that theme. If this is a musical you know and love or have never seen, I urge you to get there for some fun comedy, great singing and a wonderful production.
When I was 18 and finishing high school, I hoped to never see another classroom, and set out to become a professional performer. As I found myself, the only high school aged student competing at auditions with college aged folks, was the first time, I heard music from Company. It seemed as if everyone had played a role in some production, although looking back now given it was 1975, that couldn’t have really been the case. I’m almost embarrassed to say, for fear of losing my Gay Card, that I had never seen the show till now, partly because of all these years of pretending that of course, I had seen it or heard it. What games we can play.
My real first engagement with the music was actually Barbara’s Broadway Album, you know- on vinyl. My friends and I loved to listen to it, so much that Jeffrey was the first person I knew, to go out and get a CD player, specifically to have the highest quality for Barbara’s voice. (This rescues my gay cred I think.) Robert’s final song, Being Alive, has always been in my mind, Barbara’s song. And I’m not the only one! As we rode the elevator back up to the car, a woman was telling her friends about a Barbara album, though she couldn’t remember which one it had been. I’m not sure if it is good or bad for the songs to have a life of their own out of the context of a show. I suppose it speaks to how tremendous they are- how quintessential American Musical Theater they are.
Some call this musical a comedy, and there are plenty of laugh lines to accommodate such a distinction, but the real power of this show for me grows from the fine line it walks between being all that and nothing at the very same time. It isn’t a simple boy meets girl, everyone sings and is happy type of show. It is both fulfilling and leaves you in angst and longing at the same time. In fact, watching, you wonder, if anyone is really happy, till y0u realize everything about how we are as isolated individuals as well as seeking companionship is a search for something. Marriage itself, isn’t the answer, but one avenue explored toward that end. Watching the 33 gay and straight couples who married at the Grammy’s, it makes matrimony seem like the answer, but really it is just one small- minute even- part of a larger continuum. Company made me think about that in a new way. My partner and I have been together for 16 years. we are married, yet not married; single yet not single. That threshold between single hood and marriage hood is a different demarcation than how most straight couples experience or anticipate it.
I wanted more than anything for Joanne’s scene and Here’s the the ladies who lunch, to be my favorite, but surprisingly, Amy’s scene and Getting Married Today takes the prize for me. Joanne’s very, very good, but perhaps another casualty of Barbara’s album. Still, all the cast hold up their part of the job in a great way.
As always, the Public shines in terms of lighting and set design. They are true masters bringing a show to life, creating band filling a space that keeps you watching, and in this case, the set places this show so completely in New York City that you can be deceived into forgetting about the couples and marriage and all the human stuff, and become mesmerized by how this show is a statement about elite New York and the enchantment, promises, magic, and deceptions the City itself is responsible for. I remember my first trip to the Big Apple, as an adult. At 21, and concluding my first year of college, I spent a few weeks there, studying dance at Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theater. I walked the streets and sat in parks believing that just being in New York would change everything. In some ways it did, and it didn’t change anything at all at the same time. I think we can play the same enmesh/separate mind game with space that we can play with our companions. We want what we have, we want more and we are afraid of losing if we try for more- rinse and repeat. Like Kathy, I wanted to fit there, and yet I didn’t.
Company runs until February 23rd, check the website for tickets.
Today, I dug out the old vinyl. I’m hesitant to play it- how will it sound or should I download the album from iTunes? Barbara’s voice is calling me.