Company Redux (Manhattan Living)

The project is Company — ballyhooed as the world’s original “concept musical” (one structured around an idea as opposed to a traditional plot) — in a new staging by Doyle, whose signature “concept directing” is redefining the size and scope of 21st-century musical theatre.

His artistic vision, born of the obscenely tight regional-theatre budgets he had to contend with in the U.K., is one of consolidation: actors double as the orchestra; characters emerge organically to dominate a minimalist stagescape; theatergoers are left breathless. At least that was the case when Doyle made his Broadway debut with Sweeney Todd last year, walking away with the Best Direction of a Musical Tony.

Born in Scotland, Doyle has spent the last couple of decades serving as artistic director for a quartet of British theatre companies, where he perfected his bare-bones methodology on such shows as The Gondoliers and Mack & Mabel. “I think I’d had enough of the administrative side of theatre. I wanted the freedom to travel around and do my own thing,” says the 54-year-old, whose neo-Victorian design and use of abstract violence endowed Sweeney Todd with the surreal guts of a turn-of-the-century psychological thriller.

“There’s different imagery at work in Company compared to Sweeney Todd. There’s much more spoken dialogue, and it has a more brassy sound: trumpets, saxophones, cello, clarinet, keyboards… a much bigger sound,” he notes. “Certainly there’s a sophisticated darkness about it at times, but the script is very funny and we’ve been very truthful to the humor.”

Rather go the retro route, Doyle went for the updated version, an amalgamation of the groundbreaking 1995 London and New York productions. “It has more of the feel of ‘Friends’ or ‘Desperate Housewives,’” he says. “And because it’s a musical about contemporary New Yorkers, it’s very stylish — like a classy New York cocktail party, with everyone in black.” (more…)