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On Stage: Sondheim Has a Darkly Comic Song for All


Nobody in musical theatre has pushed boundaries the way Stephen Sondheim has—whether it's a modern farce inspired by the farces of a Roman playwright, as in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; an intricate weaving of plot-lines that follow disparate fairy tale characters, as in Into the Woods; or the demon barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd-- Sondheim has a darkly comic song for all.

With the debut of Company in 1970, Sondheim is credited with bringing the musical into the modern age. Gone are the straightforward plot and timeline that are central to traditional musical theatre. Instead, Company is described as a concept musical, a series of vignettes based on work by George Furth, told in not-necessarily-chronological order, and knit together by an overarching theme—adult relationships. Confirmed bachelor Bobby contemplates the rewards and challenges of marriage, demonstrated by his friends and former girlfriends, as all prepare for Bobby's 35th birthday celebration.

Sophisticated, funny, and often brutal, Company offers up an unflinching take on subjects that had rarely, if ever, been confronted on the musical stage before. It was nominated for 14 Tony Awards, and took home seven, including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Lyrics. It also produced what would become a signature song for Elaine Stritch, the acerbic “The Ladies Who Lunch.”

You can catch a performance of Company onstage at Wichita State University's Wilner Auditorium from November 3rd through November 6.