Stephen Sondheim’s Shocking Flip-Flops With Gay ‘Company’

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Stephen Sondheim's Shocking Flip-Flops With Gay 'Company'

If you’re a Broadway fan, you might have heard by now that Roundabout Theater Company has been working on readings of a new version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” directed by John Tiffany (“ONCE,” “The Glass Menagerie”). Bobby, the story’s central character, originally had multiple girlfriends but never could commit to marrying any of them. Now, with small rewrites, Bobby is a gay man who has multiple boyfriends and commitment issues.

Many fans of the show have always seen Bobby as being a gay man. Some of these people are gay men who see a part of themselves in the character. Others seem to see homosexuality hidden within the subtext. Then you have those that make a direct correlation between the writers’ sexuality and Bobby’s. One of the beautiful things about the original script is that you can interpret it in so many different ways. Audience members from all walks of life have drawn parallels between the characters in the show and the people in their own lives.

If you look at the reactions from people who know “Company,” you will see a great divide in opinion on this potential revival. On one hand, you have people jumping for joy and fully supporting the idea.  Others seem to be completely outraged.  By stealing away the ambiguity of the central character, one would think the audience would not have the full experience of the show.  Of course, this production might be sacrificing some of the original content in hopes of being relevant today.  Sondheim himself has said that marriage is a very different thing now than it was when Company opened in 1970.  The same can be said about being gay.  When Tiffany called up Sondheim with the idea for this new rendition, Sondheim admits that he was intrigued.

Now that’s interesting.

People have been trying to do gay versions of this show for decades and all of a sudden it has captured the attention of Mr. Sondheim.  Oh, what a proposal from a hot director in the theater world will do to some people!  Just a few years back, Sondheim put the kibosh on a production of Company set to go up at NYU and even sent a biting letter to the student behind it all.  It’s one thing to deny rights to control how your work is being shown.  It’s something completely different when you chide an ambitious young artist for trying to do something relevant with a story he or she feels passionate about.  That student has since gone on to form his own company which explores LGBT topics via revived work.

After all these years of denying Bobby’s homosexuality, we now find this famous composer changing his mind.  Actors Alan Cumming, Daniel Evans, Michael Urie and Bobby Steggert all worked on last month’s readings.  With all these names attached, you would hope something special would come from this.   Then again, this could be Broadway’s elite gay men being a little too overindulgent.  I hope the Guinness Book of World Records is present on opening night, because it may just turn into the biggest gay orgy of all time.   No matter how it plays out, I think we’ll all learn a little more about Being Alive.


Ricky Dunlop is a writer, actor and comedian residing in New York City.

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