Matthew Rodin and Ali Louis Bourzgui in "Company." (Note Jhardon Dishon Milton has replaced Bourzgui on the tour) Source: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

EDGE Interview: In Gender-Switched 'Company,' Matthew Rodin is 'Not Getting Married Today'

Steve Duffy READ TIME: 11 MIN.

Note: Introduction by Robert Nesti

"Company" hit Broadway in 1970 with the shock of the new: a plotless, concept musical that dealt with contemporary views of marriage. In it, married friends of Bobby, its protagonist, gather to celebrate his 35th birthday and prod him about his not being married. As he blows out the candles, a series of scenes unfold that show his relationships with the couples, as well as the women he dates, as he struggles with his commitment issues.

The show marked the first collaboration between composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and producer Harold Prince, collaborators whose subsequent productions over the decade would transform musical theater. It was a hit, winning six Tony Awards (out of a record-breaking 14 nominations), and ran 705 performances. Numerous revivals have kept "Company" relevant, including John Doyle's 2006 production in which the actors played instruments.

But how do you bring the show in the 21th century? British director Marianne Elliott pitched the idea of a gender-swap production to Sondheim in which Bobby became Bobbie, a successful and single 35-year old New Yorker with a group of married friends and a trio of men she dates. According to an interview in the New York Times, Sondheim said at first was skeptical, but after Elliot sent him a tape of a workshop of her concept, he was intrigued. Then when Marianne told him that workshop's young cameraman who was unfamiliar with the show said, "You mean it worked with a guy?" And Sondheim was sold.

Matthew Rodin
Source: Facebook

What especially worked for Sondheim, who won his first Tony Awards for "Company," was the scene at the end of the first act in which a young bride has second doubts about her impending wedding with the tongue-twisting "Not Getting Married." With gay marriage legal, the couple became two men and the scene resonated with the contemporary feel it had decades ago. Sondheim said the production was "thrilling from beginning to end. And the last scene of Act I (which is now two guys) will completely shatter you, as well as it being one of the funniest scenes on record."

In this new version, the anxious bride, named Amy, becomes Jaimie. It is also a role that has brought the actors who have played it in London and Broadway awards. Jonathan Bailey – now a major star – won the Olivier Award in London and Matt Doyle on Broadway in the pandemic-delayed production that became a hit and was running when Sondheim died in November 2021.

In the current tour, that arrives in Boston this week at the Citizen Bank Opera House through April 14, Jaimie is played by Matthew Rodin, the 31-year-old New Yorker who program bio reads: "Matthew is grateful to be here and queer." It was a sentence that would have been forbidden in a program bio in 1970. In addition to his acting, Matt is accomplished video director and editor; and is the creator and host of "The Come Up" (Broadway Podcast Network) and "The Red Carpet Challenge" ( Prior to "Company," Matthew has appeared in "Rent" (Paper Mill Playhouse), "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at Milwaukee Rep, and the 2022 film musical "Beau," directed by Josh Rhodes,

EDGE spoke to Matthew during the show's recent run in Washington DC about his career, the show's gender-swapping concept, and being a queer actor in 2024.

EDGE: Please introduce yourself to the readers.

Matthew Rodin: My name is Matthew Rodin. I'm from outside of Chicago from a little suburb called Northbrook. I attended the Boston Conservatory and now I live in New York.

EDGE: When did you get your 'big break?'

Matthew Rodin: This is my big break. If I were to consider something my big break, I would say this opportunity and this show. I've never gotten the chance to work on something of this scale and caliber and with an amazing group of performers.

EDGE: "Company" premiered in Boston 54 years ago. How does it feel to come to the city where it all began?

Matthew Rodin: As a young person who loved theater, I looked up to many Broadway actors and held their performances close to my heart. I have always wanted to be a part of Broadway and I have always wanted to have a small part in the legacy of this show and musical theater at large. It's not lost on me, and I don't take it for granted for a single second. The thing that I feel mostly is just gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity and gratitude that in 1970, they took a leap of faith and tried something completely different. "Company" was the first nonlinear concept musical. Nothing had ever been done like this before. I think still it's having an impact on audiences in the way that it doesn't land like a traditional musical. It leaves you with more questions than it does answers the same way it did in the beginning.

Matthew Rodin in "Rent" at the Paper Mill Playhouse

EDGE: When did you first experience the show?

Matthew Rodin: I knew Sondheim music, at a pretty young age, but I didn't become familiar with a lot of his work until I was in college. "Company" still evaded me until this most recent revival. I was familiar with some of the music as I'm sure I'd watched some clips on YouTube, but again wasn't really familiar with all the music. I knew "The Ladies Who Lunch, "Being Alive," and "You Could Drive a Person Crazy." Those classic numbers. It wasn't until I went and saw this revival in 2021 that I was really taken aback by how relevant it felt and how clearly, I understood what these relationships were about. I have been with my husband now for about four years and I had never heard anyone articulate the experience of being in partnership as clearly as Sondheim's lyrics did. I couldn't believe that Sondheim, who had never been in a relationship before when he was writing this, was able to put into words what that experience was like. I honestly felt comforted.

EDGE: What do you enjoy most about playing Jaime?

Matthew Rodin: Getting to play a queer character on stage every night is an incredible privilege. As a queer person, I grew up seeking out representation, trying to find places and people that I felt looked like me, behaved like me, or thought like me. We've certainly come a long way since the '90s when I was born. The fact that I get to bring a large part of myself to and share that with audiences every night is a gift. His neurosis is fun. His relationship with Paul is such a joy to get to be a part of every night. I'm lucky that I've had two wonderful gentlemen play my husband in this production – Ali Louis Bourzgui, who's playing Tommy on Broadway right now, and Jhardon Dishon Milton, who is just so generous, kind, smart, and warm. Being across from them every night has been my favorite part of playing Jamie. I feel very lucky to have a partner to go through this show and tour with. Tour life is not simple and it's not always easy, so to have someone to lean on and be there for you is amazing.

by Steve Duffy

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