An unmarried man contemplates his future and former Follies performers revisit their haunted pasts in two of Stephen Sondheim’s musical theater masterpieces.
Northwestern University’s Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts presents “Company” from Nov. 3 to 19 in the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive, followed by NT Live’s “Follies” on Nov. 30 in the Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive on the Evanston campus.
“Company,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth, premiered in 1970 and earned a record-setting 14 Tony Award nominations, winning six including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score and Best Lyrics. The exuberant score includes showstoppers such as “Ladies Who Lunch,” “Getting Married Today” and “Side by Side by Side.”
A trailblazer of the dark-comedy, modern-musical genre, “Company” is structured as a series of vignettes surrounding the 35th birthday of protagonist Bobby and was the first musical to explore adult themes and marriage. Composer Sondheim said, “Broadway theater has been for many years supported by upper-middle-class people with upper-middle-class problems. These people really want to escape that world when they go to the theater, and then here we are with “Company” talking about how we’re going to bring it right back in their faces.”
Chicago director William Brown, who recently directed “Company” for Writers Theatre in summer 2016, relishes the challenge helming Northwestern’s student production. He believes it makes no difference whether the cast, or audience for that matter, are in their 20s, 30s or older. Everyone can relate to the comfort and constraint of finding themselves in a routine or the surprise of falling in love.
“We all know what it might feel like to be trapped in a sense, like Bobby, and yet he is surrounded by people who love him. Our daily routine, our jobs, taking care of our friends can sometimes get in the way of gaining the courage to look beyond that and explore how we might find love. The freedom and willingness to be open to that process is a fascinating topic to explore,” Brown said.
Performances of “Company” are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
“Company” is part of the Wirtz Center’s 2017/18 mainstage season. Subscription information is available on the Wirtz Center website.
Single tickets are $30 for the general public; $27 for seniors (62+) and area educators; $25 for Northwestern faculty and staff; $10 for students with valid ID; and $6 in advance or $10 at the door for Northwestern students.
Marriage and “Company”: A post show conversation with Eli Finkel and William Brown
Friday, Nov. 3, following the opening night performance
Eli Finkel, Northwestern professor of social psychology and author of the new book “The All or Nothing Marriage,” joins “Company” director William Brown for a conversation about how our expectations of marriage have changed over time. The conversation follows the 7:30 p.m. opening night performance of “Company.”
National Theatre Live: “Follies”
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
book by James Goldman
Thursday, Nov. 30, 7 p.m.
Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive
It’s 1971 in New York, and there’s a party on the stage of the Weismann Theatre. Tomorrow the iconic building will be demolished. Thirty years after their final performance, the Follies girls gather to have a few drinks, sing a few songs and lie about themselves. Tracie Bennett, Janie Dee and Imelda Staunton play the magnificent Follies in this dazzling new production directed by Dominic Cooke and featuring a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21.
“Follies” is rated PG-13 with a running time of three hours and 30 minutes.
NT Live tickets are $20 for general public, $16 for Northwestern faculty and staff and $10 for area students. Tickets are available online at the Wirtz Center website, by phone at 847-491-7282 or in person at the Wirtz Center box office in the Barber Theater lobby, 30 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston.
Box office hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. The Box Office is closed on Sunday and Monday.