By George Basler

SRO Productions III is ending its season with a musical that in some ways revolutionized the American musical and helped make the reputation of Stephen Sondheim as a Broadway legend.

Company, with music and lyrics by Sondheim and a book by George Furth, was one of the first concept musicals to become popular. A concept musical lacks a linear plot and instead tells its story through a series of vignettes on a common theme.

In Company’s case, the theme is the challenges of dating, marriage and finding connections with other people in today’s face-paced society.

SRO’s production will open Friday (June 7) for a two-weekend run at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage, 46 Willow St., Johnson City.

SRO is staging the musical because “we wanted to do something a little different,” said Scott Fisher, who is directing the show. He noted SRO presented two breezier musicals, Grease and The Prom, earlier in the season. “This one ,” he said, “has a little more meat to it. We thought it was a good contrast.”

Company’s story centers on the relationships between Bobby, a 35-year-old bachelor, and his married friends, beginning with a surprise birthday thrown by the friends. The original 1970 production was nominated for a record-setting 14 Tony Awards, winning six. But the musical turned off some audience members because of its complex theme and non-linear plot. Some critics even attacked it for being anti-marriage, something Sondheim adamantly denied.

“I’m going to go with what Sondheim said (about Company). It’s a show about relationships, what it means to be in a relationship with anybody,” Fisher said.

Fisher is directing a 14-person cast filled with performers who have been in other SRO Productions over the years. They will perform 13 Sondheim songs accompanied by a four-piece live ensemble (piano, flute, violin and bass). “We felt we had a number of people in the right age group to do it. That’s mostly people in their mid-30s,” Fisher said.

Since its original 1970 production, Company has been revived three times of Broadway. The most recent revival in 2021 was a gender-bending rewrite, changing the main character from male to female, Bobby to Bobbie. But SRO is performing the original 1970 version, Fisher said.

The original is dated in some respects — no cellphones, for instance — “but is it dated as far as the theme goes? No!” Fisher emphasized.

SRO is setting up some tables for audience members to give the show a New York City jazz club vibe. “I’m excited,” Fisher said. “It’s been a real fun production to work on. We’ve been true to the spirit of the show.” 

IF YOU GO: SRO Productions III will present Company on the weekends of June 7-9 and June 14-16 at the Goodwill Theatre’s Schorr Family Firehouse Stage, 46 Willow St., Johnson City. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday performances are at 2 p.m. Tickets at $28 (fees included) for adults and students and $26 (fees included) for ages 62 and over can be ordered at SRO’s website, Tickets also will be available at the door, but reservations are suggested as some performances may sell out.