5Q: Britney Coleman
“5Q” is an online-only column featuring five questions about stage productions in the Metro Area. Periodically, “5Q” will take the form of an interview with actors, directors, writers, etc. to shed some light on the production process.
Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical, Company, received critical acclaim (and Tony Awards!) for the latest Broadway revival. Now that production is touring the country and set to open at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. With Bobbie reimagined as a female, the musical comedy uses a series of vignettes to explore what it means to be single, be married, and be alive in the 21st century.
Britney Coleman steps into the role of Bobbie and brings a refreshed nuance to the gender-swapped lead role. In addition to her Broadway roles (including the first national tour of Beetlejuice as Barbara Maitland), Minneapolis audiences might recognize her from her featured soloist performance with the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus in their 2022 spring Pride concert.
You just got off of the Beetlejuice tour and now you’re hitting the road again, which must be exhausting. Now that you’re on your second national tour, are you doing anything differently this time, whether it’s to keep up your energy or maybe experience the same cities differently?
Absolutely. The only role that would have convinced me to leave Beetlejuice early was Bobbie in Company. I had about two weeks in between Beetlejuice and the start of rehearsals for Company in NYC and it was just enough time to regroup and refocus. I barely unpacked my suitcases! Thankfully, I knew Bobbie would be a much more emotionally/physically/vocally draining show, so I’ve prioritized my health much more this time around than when I was on Beetlejuice. Unfortunately I can’t go out and explore as much as I did before, but I’m sure I’ll find new ways to explore each city we visit.
Some of the biggest buzz around this production is the gender swap of the lead character to a female protagonist — transforming Bobby to Bobbie. How do you approach a “new” role like this, in a decades-old show?
Outside of the switching of pronouns, the script has remained about 95% intact, which is fascinating because it still feels fresh and contemporary. That’s the genius of George Furth. A single woman turning 35 in 2023 has its own implications and thankfully I can use my own life experience to help carry me through!
What does that swap mean for the greater production? What new stories or nuances get to be told with this new perspective of Bobbie, or what still resonates very much the same?
We have a resonating theme of clocks ticking in this show. Bobbie’s biological clock is ticking harder than ever at this age and we have subtle baby cries throughout the piece. The societal pressures are just different with a woman and it’s interesting to watch how Bobbie reacts to those subtle reminders. It’s interesting how all of her married friends have very different opinions on marriage—some views which were very progressive in the ‘70s are much more widely accepted nowadays. Many of the couples are also gender-swapped. “Amy” with the wedding day jitters is now “Jamie” who is marrying Paul. Audiences are thrilled to see this switch!
You understudied Bobbie in the 2021 Broadway revival and now you’re returning to the role in the national tour. How do you approach the character differently, if at all, now that you’ve had some time away?
The biggest task in revisiting Bobbie is making her my own. I learned the role on Broadway under extreme duress with Covid and it’s been difficult to shake the jitters that were so deeply ingrained into that experience. This will be something I’ll have to work on for most of the run of this tour!
You also took a break from that Broadway revival to perform with the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus for their Pride concert in 2022. What can you tell me about the decision to take a hiatus from Broadway to be a part of that concert? What was that experience like for you?
Company granted me about four days away from the show, so although not much of a hiatus, it was a wonderful change of pace and a chance to revisit one of my favorite choral pieces: Andrew Lippa’s “Unbreakable.” I had premiered the piece with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in 2018 and it was a deeply moving experience. TCGMC contacted me saying they wanted to include one of the numbers in their concert, so how could I say no? It was amazing being so welcomed into the chorus and putting on such a fun, fully scripted choral piece. It was like Avenue Q with a wide range of songs and personal anecdotes from the chorus members. TCGMC has such a strong bond and sense of family that far surpasses the bond in a lot of shows on Broadway. It was a joy to be welcomed into the family!
Company runs at the Orpheum Theatre from November 14-19. For more information and to purchase tickets, head to www.hennepintheatretrust.org.