You've got so many reasons for not being with someone, but Robert, you haven't got one good reason for being alone.
Company is an American musical with book by George Furth and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The plot revolves around Bobby, a handsome and well-liked single man, the five married couples who are his best friends, and three of his girlfriends. Unlike most book musicals, which follow a clearly delineated plot, the show consists of short vignettes, presented in no particular chronological order, all linked together by a celebration for Bobby's 35th birthday. One of its most notable aspects was that it was among the first musicals to deal with more adult problems through its music. As Sondheim put it, "they are middle-class people with middle class-problems."
This musical provides examples of:
- Adaptational Sexuality: A rewritten version is in the works with Bobby as a gay man struggling to commit to one man.
- Alone Among the Couples: Central to the plot.
- Amicable Exes: An extreme example: by the second act Peter and Susan have gotten divorced but they are still living together and raising the children together, and have found that the divorce has actually strengthened their relationship. They express their happiness but also state that they aren't getting married again when Bobby asks.
- Anachronic Order: There is no plot, just a series of vignettes depicting Bobby's relationships with his married friends and his three girlfriends, and the view he gets on love, relationship and marriage from his view of their lives. Consequently, it's unclear when most of the scenes take place in relation to each other, with the exception of the intercut sequences of his birthday party.
- Anti-Love Song: Sorry-Grateful, downplayed. Bob asks Harry if he's ever sorry that he got married. Harry's answer is a yes, and a no — he's sorry, and grateful, because married life is very different from being in love.
- Armor-Piercing Question: With a little help from Joanne, Bobby actually delivers one to himself:Joanne: I'll take care of you.Bobby: But who will I take care of?
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In Poor Baby, as Bobby is seen sleeping with April, the wives are shown saying that he ought to have a woman, but not someone like the woman he's with right now. They each state their criticisms of her, saying that she's "dumb", "tacky", "vulgar", "odd", etc. Joanne's complaint? She's "tall enough to be your mother".
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: A sort of meta one is the three most recognizable Joannes: Elaine Stritch, the original, was blonde, Barbara Walsh in the 2006 revival was a brunette, and Patti LuPone in the 2011 concert version was a redhead.
- Bowdlerise: You Can Drive a Person Crazy originally went, "I could understand a person/If it's not a person's bag./I could understand a person/If a person was a fag." Later productions changed it to, "I could understand a person/If he said to go away./I could understand a person/If he happened to be gay."
- Book Ends: Bobby's 35th birthday party opens and closes each act.
- Brainless Beauty: April. She is completely aware of the fact.April: I'm very dumb.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Done quite a few times during the 2011 concert performance. In one scene, Bobby and April treat the conductor like an interior decoration. During "Getting Married Today", Amy goes up to the conductor, takes his baton, and snaps it in half in order to stop the music. And at the end of "Ladies Who Lunch", Joanne literally tosses her drink into the audience.
- Broken Bird: Depending on the interpretation, Joanne could be seen as a cynical example: She is an alcoholic who has been twice divorced and is currently on her third husband. She is rather different from Bobby's other friends, spends most of the scenes making occasional snarky remarks, and is shown being extremely critical of both her husband, who clearly loves her with all his heart, and of Bobby. However, Bobby describes her as "warm", and her husband says that her behaviour comes from the fact that she has "no self-esteem". In the end, she also plays something of a mentorly role to Bobby, as she is the one who makes him question what he wants from a relationship.
- Broken Record: At the end of The Ladies Who Lunch, Joanne repeatedly sings the word "rise."
- B.S.O.D. Song: The second half of The Ladies Who Lunch, where Joanne realizes that she has wasted her life criticizing others instead of trying to change for the better.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Bobby can be played this way, as he is fooling around with multiple women and it's clear that he has no problem with casual sex and one-night stands, but seems to be genuinely kind and caring towards the women he knows and doesn't overstep his bounds with his married female friends. In What Would We Do Without You? as his married friends describe him as the perfect friend, they say that he is "a flirt but never a threat".
- Coordinated Clothes: In the New York Philharmonic production, the married couples are colour-coordinated, with Joanne and Larry in black◊, Amy and Paul in white and grey◊, Sarah and Harry in red◊, Jenny and David in yellow◊, and Susan and Peter in pink◊. Bobby wears blue and brown◊, and his solo scenes are all lit with blue light. The lighting of each scene tends to go with the colour scheme of the couple (Joanne and Larry's lighting ending up as purple◊), and the pillows on the sofas are changed to match as well.
- Coming-of-Age Story: For Bobby. In Side By Side By Side his friends comment on how they've gotten older but he seems to stay the same, and at the end Joanne tells him that he's not a kid anymore.
- Deadpan Snarker: Joanne
- Deconfirmed Bachelor: Bobby
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: The various sorts of rich, middle-aged women that Joanne describes in The Ladies Who Lunch. By the third verse, she is also including and describing herself. By the ending, Bobby has a bit of this, too.
- The Ditz: April, who's sweet but none too bright. She's totally aware of and comfortable with this fact.
- Double-Meaning Title: Several different senses of the word "company" are highlighted at various points.
- Downer Ending: One amateur production infamously ended the show with Robert Driven to Suicide. Sondheim was not amused.
- Establishing Character Moment: The opening scene is this for several of the characters. First, it shows Bobby's popularity and his friendship with the couples. Sarah and Harry's competitive and combative relationship is established as they give him their present. Amy's neurotic nature is shown as she presents him with the present from her and Paul. Joanne's cynical and sarcastic nature is shown when she snarks at the other wives and, when one of them asks Bobby who she is, responds thus:Joanne: That is I, miss. I'm very rich and I'm married to him, and I'd introduce him but I forgot his name.
- Fiery Redhead: Joanne, as played by Patti LuPone◊ in the 2011 New York Philharmonic production.
- Friendship Song: Side By Side By Side/What Would We Do Without You?, Bobby's ode to his married friends and their description of him as the perfect friend, but it's ultimately a subversion as the brief Un-Duet moment shows that even though he has friends, Bobby is still, ultimately, alone, and the lyrics of What Would We Do Without You show that his married friends use him as something of a crutch to help them through their own marital difficulties.
- Gender Flip: A production was announced in 2016 with Bobby played by and as a woman ("Bobbie").
- Girl Next Door: Kathy, Bobby's longtime girlfriend. She is a sweet, wholesome girl from Cape Cod who feels out of place in New York, and Bobby admits that at the beginning of their relationship he wanted to marry her. She admits that she felt the same way before telling him that she's moving back to Cape Cod to get married and have a family.
- Growing Up Sucks: "You're not a kid anymore, Robby! I don't think you'll ever be a kid again, kiddo!"
- Handsome Lech: Bobby can be played this way
- Happily Married: It's very clear that all of the couples have far from fairy-tale marriages, but in the end one is left with the impression that they are, ultimately, happy and fulfilled in their relationships.
- "I Want" Song: First, Someone is Waiting depicts Bobby's impossible dream of finding the perfect woman, who combines the best parts of all of his female friends. Then in Marry Me a Little, he expresses a desire for an easy, no-strings marriage, but it's clear that what he's hoping for isn't realistic or sustainable. Finally in Being Alive he starts by decrying marriage, but ultimately expresses a strong desire for someone to share his life with.
- Idle Rich: In the 2011 New York Philharmonic production, as Bobby describes each of his female friends in Someone Is Waiting, they are shown each doing their normal household activities, such as reading a magazine or folding children's clothes, but Joanne is shown lounging and staring off into the distance.
- Incredibly Long Note: "We looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove you." This infamous 40 second note (18 in the recording) comes from a peculiarity in the staging of the original production: the note was held for exactly the duration of how long it took the two elevators in Boris Aronson's set to do a complete raise! In other productions, including the 2007 revival, the note is sometimes shortened. The 2011 concert retains the full length.
- Ironic Birthday: It's on his 35th birthday that Bobby finally realizes that "alone is alone, not alive" and realizes that he does want commitment.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Joanne is usually played this way. Drunk, sarcastic and abrasive, but she does care about Bobby and Larry (and sometimes, she'll even act like it).
- Lady Drunk: Joanne.Joanne: What was that clock chime?Larry: Five-o'-clock.Joanne: Thank God, cocktail hour!
- Like Parent, Like Spouse: When Larry is talking about why he loves Joanne so much in spite of her behaviour, he mentions that his mother was a "very difficult woman", suggesting that there's an element of this.
- List Song: The Little Things You Do Together describes the ways that couples interact and the activities they share that can make (or break) a relationship. The Ladies Who Lunch describes different sorts of rich, middle-aged women who while away their time trying to escape or ignore their directionless, unfulfilled lives. Someone Is Waiting also has Bobby describing the best qualities of all of his married female friends as he imagines what his perfect woman would be like.
- Living Emotional Crutch: The lyrics of What Would We Do Without You? show that Bobby's married friends use him as this to help them through their marital difficulties.What would we do without you?How would we ever get through?Should there be a marital squabble,Available Bob'llBe there with the glue.
- Love Dodecahedron: In addition to his three girlfriends, Someone is Waiting shows that Bobby does find all of his married female friends attractive in one way or another, and he is depicted as innocently flirting with them (there's even a line in What Would We Do Without You that states that one of the reasons he is such a good friend is that he is "a flirt but never a threat"). There's also the scene where he proposes to Amy on the spur of the moment, the one where Peter asks him if he's ever had a homosexual experience, and the one where Joanne asks him when they're going to "make it" before suggesting he visit her the next day while her husband is at work and declaring that she'll "take care of him".
- Lyrical Dissonance: While the show we all know and love has some of this, mostly when involving Joanne, the Cut Song Happily Ever After would have absolutely taken the cake. It's a peppy, cheerful song about how life is dismal and horrible for everyone.
- The Little Things You Do Together, an incredibly catchy song that shows marriage getting progressively bleaker.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Marta acts this way, but is a subversion as she is not shown to have any major effect on Bobby's life.
- Minor Character, Major Song: Another Hundred People for Marta. As noted above, it was written just to showcase Pamela Myers.
- Must Have Nicotine: Joanne's first line after her epic B.S.O.D. Song:Joanne: I would like a cigarette, Larry.
- Nice Guy: Bobby's a very sweet, charming man, which is partially why all the wives adore him and really want him to find somebody to settle down with. Larry's also a genuinely pleasant, nice guy who loves Joanne dearly — even when she's not at her most lovable.
- No Accounting for Taste: Joanne tends to get practically abusive towards her husband Larry.
- Off the Wagon: Harry claims to be on the wagon, but is seen sneaking sips of bourbon. Meanwhile, his wife Sarah is on a diet but is seen sneaking bites of a brownie.
- Only One Name: No one is given a last name.
- Patter Song: A decent amount of Another Hundred People is also very fast and wordy.
- Amy's part of Getting Married Today. It's the second fastest Broadway song ever written, with an average of 6.2 words per second.
- Perky Goth: The Marta of the 2006 Broadway revival (played by Angel Desai) came across this way.
- Random Events Plot
- Really Gets Around: Bobby is fooling around with three attractive young women and has had countless other girlfriends.
- Refrain from Assuming: Amy's song is actually titled Getting Married Today but is often misreferred to as "Not Getting Married Today".
- Rich Bitch: Joanne seems to be this, as exemplified by the following quote from the opening scene, but there are a few moments that show a slightly softer side of her. Bobby also describes her as "warm" in Someone is Waiting.Joanne: I'm very rich and I'm married to him, and I'd introduce him but I forgot his name.
- Rich Boredom: The Ladies Who Lunch is Joanne's scathing description of the empty and ultimately meaningless lives of rich, middle-aged women, herself included, and the various ways they try to distract themselves or remain in denial of how unfulfilled they feel.
- Sanity Slippage Song: Getting Married Today.
- Some interpretations of The Ladies Who Lunch, such as Patti LuPone's, have shades of this, especially in the last two verses.
- Serial Spouse: Joanne has been married "three or four times". (According to Bobby, it's three.)
- Setting Introduction Song: Another Hundred People, halfway through the first act, describes the city of New York and the busy lives of the people living in and passing through it.
- Sex Equals Love: Averted; the difference is explored in Tick-Tock.
- Sexy Stewardess: April, especially when played by Christina Hendricks.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Sarah and Harry's scene involves them continuously contradicting each other before getting into a definitely-not-playful karate demonstration, but ends with this:Sarah: I'll turn out the lights. I always do.Harry: No you don't.Sarah: Oh Harry, I love you.
- Smoking Is Cool: It was made in the 70's so several of the characters smoke. The most notable is Joanne (in the DVD of the 2011 concert version, you can see that her cigarettes are Pall Malls) who states that smoking is "the best", and who mocks Bobby for saying that he "meant to" smoke but never did, pointing out that that statement sums up his life and his lack of resolve and commitment.
- Starter Marriage: Joanne's first marriage happened when she was just out of college, and apparently lasted only a year, until her husband announced that he wanted to move back to Chicago and she refused. As she tells Bobby:Joanne: I was too young, but I was old enough to know where I was living, and I had no intention of leaving New York.
- Stepford Snarker: Joanne could be seen as an example, depending on the interpretation. She is a snarky, abrasive alcoholic who has been divorced twice. Her current husband, Larry, says that she is "wildly conceited" with "no self-esteem", and that she still is unable to believe that he loves her and continues to be fascinated by her. Her song, The Ladies Who Lunch, starts as her critique of rich middle-aged women who wile away their lives with meaningless activities but turns into a scathing description of her own directionless life.
- Stoners Are Funny: The scene with Jenny and David.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Although it's not used for comedic effect, there is one in Poor Baby:There's no one
In his life,
Robert ought to have a woman...
April: That's not to say
- There's another one that is used for comic effect at the end of Barcelona, the morning after Bobby and April have slept together and she is getting ready to leave to be on a flight to Barcelona. Bobby makes the usual false pleas that she stay, clearly wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep, leading to this exchange:
That if I had my way...
Oh, well...I guess...okay!Bobby: What?April: I'll stay!Bobby: But...oh God!
- Surprise Party: The show starts (and ends) with the surprise party Bobby's married friends have thrown for his 35th birthday.
- Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Joanne◊, as played by Barbara Walsh in the 2006 Broadway revival.
- The Eleven O'Clock Number: Being Alive.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Joanne gives a minor one to Bobby in the scene following The Ladies Who Lunch:Bobby: I never smoked.Joanne: Why not?Bobby: I don't know. I meant to, does that count?Joanne: "Meant to"? "Meant to"? Story of your life, "meant to". Jesus, you were lifted right out of a Kraft-Ebbing case history. You were always outside staring in the window while everyone was inside dancing at the party. Now, I insist you smoke. Here, Rob, smoke.Bobby: No thank you. You smoke. I'll watch.Joanne: "Watch"? Did you hear yourself? Did you hear what you just said, kiddo? "Watch"! I'm offering you the chance to-Bobby: I don't want one!Joanne: Because you're weak! I hate people who are weak!
And here's to the girls who just watch—Aren't they the best?When they get depressed,It's a bottle of Scotch,Plus a little jest.Another chance to disapprove,Another brilliant zinger,Another reason not to move,Another vodka stinger.(screamed) I'll drink to that!
- The third verse of The Ladies Who Lunch could also be seen as Joanne giving one to herself:
- Threesome Subtext: While his relationship with his married friends seems to be completely platonic, in Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You? Bobby talks about how his married friends are all he needs and the couples talk about what a perfect friend he is and how his presence helps them through all of their marital difficulties.
- Title Drop: As with many musicals, the opening song.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Joanne and her vodka stingers. Bobby also seems to have a fondness for bourbon.
- Un-Duet: A brief one appears in What Would We Do Without You?.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: Being Alive can be seen as this for Bobby, as he finally admits that "alone is alone, not alive" and becomes ready to commit.