INTERVIEW: Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Company’ plays Barrington Stage

James Ludwig, Jane Pfitsch and Aaron Tveit star in Company at Barrington Stage Company. Photo courtesy of Daniel Rader.

There are numerous Stephen Sondheim musicals that deserve repeat viewings and constant revivals. From Gypsy to A Little Night Music to Follies to Merrily We Roll Along, his output puts him at the top echelon of American composers.

One of his most treasured shows is Company, which is being revived this month at Barrington Stage Company in Downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The production stars Aaron Tveit as Bobby, a man who attends dinner party after dinner party but never wants to settle down. He’s doesn’t quite understand marriage, and yet he always makes for good company.

In the Barrington revival, Jane Pfitsch plays Jenny. Recently, Hollywood Soapbox exchanged emails with the actress. Questions and answers have been slightly edited for style.

How do you see the role of Jenny? How do you approach the character?

I see Jenny as a cool, kind, thoughtful, maternal type — very invested in her family — but I also think she has a creative side. Maybe she’s a writer or an academic. The script doesn’t give us too much information — Jenny calls herself ‘dumb’ and ‘square’ — and I think she is old fashioned in some ways. She doesn’t swear, and she doesn’t know much about recreational drugs. But she’s adventurous enough to try smoking pot with her husband and Bobby.

What’s it like to sing Stephen Sondheim’s songs? Are they challenging?

Sondheim songs are such gifts to actors. His lyrics are incredibly smart and thoughtful. His melodies (and harmonies) are often challenging, but once you’ve learned them, they do a lot of the emotional work for you. Every time I work on a Sondheim piece, I realize all over again that you just have to take the ride and, as much as possible, let the material speak for itself.

What’s it like to work with director Julianne Boyd?

This is my third time working with Julie Boyd, and we’re really developing a vocabulary of working together, which I love. She’s very open to actors bringing themselves to their roles — and always eager for people to try new things. She also is brilliant at assembling talented, supportive groups of people (cast, crew and staff), which is essential. Having a positive, enthusiastic energy in the rehearsal room enables people to do their best work and take risks. She is also such a positive force in this community, which is inspiring to watch.

Is the show demanding from an actor’s perspective? From a singer’s perspective?

Company is definitely a challenging piece musically. The melodies are unexpected at first. Though now that I’ve learned them, I can’t imagine them any other way! As for the scenes — they are complex portraits of relationships with a lot of room for interpretation, which is a juicy opportunity. Jimmy Ludwig (who plays my husband) and I have had a lot of great conversations, shaping our Jenny and David into a couple we recognize and relate to.

What do you believe are some of the important lessons to be learned from Company in 2017?

I continue to be amazed with how resonant Company is today. One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot during this process right now is how different people are — how some relationships work for some people and don’t work for others. I think it’s important to realize, accept and love that people are different — who we choose to love, how we choose to live. Jenny’s last line in the pot-smoking scene is: ‘I don’t know, maybe you’re right. Whoever knows.’ I think she’s telling Bobby — whatever you choose, whether you get married, whether you don’t — anything that’s right for you is right.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Company is currently playing at Barrington Stage Company’s Boyd-Quinson Mainstage in Downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The production runs through Sept. 2. Click here for more information and tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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