A new take on ‘Company’ comes to the Benedum
TheaterShow runs April 16-21

A new take on ‘Company’ comes to the Benedum

The revival of the Sondheim musical swaps the genders of the characters, bringing the story to a "whole new generation."

Matt Rodin as Jamie and Ali Louis Bourzgui as Paul in the North American Tour of “Company” (Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade)
Matt Rodin as Jamie and Ali Louis Bourzgui as Paul in the North American Tour of “Company” (Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade)

Matthew Rodin’s wedding day evolved into an ironic example of life imitating art — or was it art imitating life?

Shortly after the New York-based actor and his husband stomped on a glass celebrating their vows in Central Park, Rodin headed to a final callback for the featured role of “Jamie” — a gay man on the verge of marriage — in the national revival tour of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.”

“On Monday, July 3, we were married in Central Park with our two families and four of our closest friends,” Rodin said, speaking from Boston where “Company” was performing before heading to Pittsburgh. “We all stood in a circle. Everybody got to speak. My grandmother was there, and she gave a blessing over the glass that we got to step on. And that happened at 11 a.m. And then at 2 p.m., I had my final callback for this tour. And I got to sing ‘(Not) Getting Married’ on my wedding day.”

He got the part — no doubt in part due to the authenticity embedded in his audition.

“It was absolutely insane and incredibly special, and it did feel bashert,” Rodin said. “And now I get to sort of relive a part of my wedding day eight times a week.”

Rodin, who was raised in Chicago — his mother was the go-to b’nai mitzvah planner for countless families in the area — is a singer-songwriter who has performed in several regional theater musicals, including “Rent,” “Hair” and “Next to Normal.” “Company,” which runs at the Benedum Center from April 16-21, is his first national tour.

“Company,” which originally opened on Broadway in 1970, won five Tony Awards in 2021, including Best Revival of a Musical.

The revival swaps the genders of the show’s central characters: In the original production, the story revolved around “Bobby,” a 35-year-old bachelor interacting with his married friends. The revival is about “Bobbie,” a 35-year-old woman, whose best friend is “Jamie, replacing the show’s original “Amy” — who Rodin describes as “a sort of wild bride who is losing her mind on her wedding day.”

Getting cast as Jamie on his own wedding day, Rodin said, convinced him there was a higher power at work.

“It was such a big turn for me in terms of faith and understanding that there’s something greater at play here, and there is some sort of higher power that’s working for me,” he said. “Because I if I was writing a movie or a TV show, I would never have even written that into the show because it seems too ridiculous. … I really do feel, in the whole sense of the word, blessed about the way that the whole thing played out.”

Although it hasn’t been easy being separated from his husband during their first year of marriage, the newlyweds are making it work.

“I’m wearing my own wedding ring in the show,” Rodin said. “It’s so special to feel like I get to carry him and that day, and my family, with me. I have pictures up of the wedding day in my dressing rooms and it’s really, really special.”

While the show employs several gender switches, its lyrics by Sondheim and its book by George Furth remain largely intact.

The show is “so strong,” Rodin said, “that they really didn’t have to change much of the material in order to make it relevant to today’s audience.”

For some of the couples portrayed, the genders aren’t switched but their lines are, so that the male is assigned the lines originally written for the female and vice versa.

The swaps, Rodin said, “create just a sort of different dynamic and it shines a light on how far we’ve come in terms of the way that we understand gender roles and partnerships, and what each of those people play in each of those companionships or marriages. And it’s been fun.”

As for the character of Jamie, Rodin is thrilled to play a queer character drawn with so much nuance.

Jamie, Rodin said, “is not the sort of one-note, comedic character. And he’s not overdramatized. You know, I think in society, we’ve had the sort of Cam and Mitch of ‘Modern Family.’ We’ve had the ‘Call Me by Your Name,’ tortured young, queer person. And I feel like this falls somewhere in the middle. You sort of get to see all the sides of [Jamie]. And for me as an actor, that’s like the biggest gift because I get to play a real human being having a real human experience — which I have to say, as someone who also has recently married, I know the feeling of that fear that comes up when it’s time to commit to a single person.”

While Rodin said he was a “huge fan” of the original piece, the revival “brings this story to a whole new audience, a whole new generation.” PJC

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at ttabachnick@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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