Sondheim’s Company comes to the Fox: A conversation with Broadway actor Javier Ignacio

Britney Coleman as Bobbie (center) and the North American Tour of COMPANY. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Company | 2.27.24 – 3.10.24 | The Fabulous Fox Theater, 527 N Grand Blvd. | All ages | $29-$95

One of Broadway’s most celebrated musicals, Company, will make its debut at the Fox Theater this Tuesday, February 27th, for a run of shows through Sunday, March 10th. Premiering on Broadway in 1970, the original Company told the story of bachelor-at-large Robert, who, on the eve of his 35th birthday, revisits his past romantic relationships, reflecting on what it means to be a single person approaching middle age in a society where coupling is the norm. The play does not follow a linear plot, but rather presents a series of scenes between the protagonist and his married friends and former lovers, with each providing a different perspective on relationships. Company was considered highly ambitious and experimental for its time, due not only to its unconventional story structure, but also for the frankness with which it explored sexuality and relationships.

The production of Company coming to the Fox is part of a wider national tour, which began in October 2023 and will run through August 2024, visiting more than 20 cities across the U.S. It is based on the third revival of Company, which premiered on Broadway in 2021, a notoriously precarious time for live theater as COVID-19 restrictions forced many productions to delay or cancel performances. Despite these setbacks, the revival was a breakout success, widely praised for its cast, production, and direction, eventually winning the 2022 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.

Recognizing that societal views on sex and relationships have changed dramatically in the 50+ years since its original production, the current revival of Company makes several updates to the Stephen Sondheim original, the most obvious being that the roles of several characters, including its protagonist, were gender-swapped. The traditionally male role of “Robert” has been changed to “Bobbie” (played by Britney Coleman in the national tour), with the roles of some of Bobbie’s friends and lovers also being updated accordingly.

In anticipation of the production’s upcoming residency at the Fox Theater, we spoke with Broadway actor Javier Ignacio, who is playing the role of Peter, one of Bobbie’s married friends, in the current production. We spoke with Mr. Ignacio while the production was in residency at the Ohio Theater in Columbus.

Javier Ignacio

The Arts STL: So are you in Ohio right now? What point in the tour is the production at?

Javier Ignacio: Yes, I had to think for a moment. We’ve been traveling every Monday for the last few weeks, close to a month and a half, so sometimes you forget where you are! But yes, we’re in Columbus, Ohio right now.

Our first leg of the tour started back at the end of September [2023] in Schenectady, New York at the Proctors Theatre. We did our entire first leg, which was about six cities, which took us through December, and then we started up again in January. So we’ve been on the road since January 1st.

The Arts STL: This is, if I’m not mistaken, the second national tour of Company?

JI: We’re the first national tour, and first tour ever of Company. We are a year-long tour, so we started performances at the end of September and we are contracted through the beginning of October 2024—so just over a year. I did the production in New York on Broadway as well, and so it’s been really cool to see how the production has evolved. After having done it in front of New York audiences for nine months, we’re then getting a feel of how it’s perceived in other parts of the country.

It’s just always fascinating to me—you kind of get to know communities, what their values are, what they find funny, what they don’t find funny. At the end of the day, the show is about relationships, and the complexities and beauties that you find in marriage. That’s something that is incredibly relatable, and something that everyone has an opinion about, right? And with those opinions you can have some positive reactions and you can have some negative ones. Overall, the show has been beautifully received, and we’re having a great time sharing it with audiences across America.

The Arts STL: On that note, to point out the obvious, Company was written over 50 years ago, and its themes may play differently to a modern audience. I know this current production has been revised in some ways, for the Broadway revival of Company in 2021. Is that correct?

JI: So as far as how it compares to the original Company, the material is the same. The production centers around Bobbie, who is turning 35. On the night of her 35th birthday, she finds out she’s about to get a surprise birthday party from all of her close friends, all of whom are married. And so, the anxiety of that sends her spiraling into this sort of dreamlike, Alice in Wonderland world, where she starts revisiting moments with all of her married friends, and sort of analyzing her relationship with them, and their relationships, while forming her opinions about marriage in general. So, the show takes a very close look at different types of relationships, conventional and non-conventional, and at the end, encourages her to find the beauty and the reason behind it all.

The original production, back in the ‘70s, centered around a male Bobby, so our production has been gender-swapped. Back in the ‘70s, it was quite controversial to find an unmarried 35-year-old man, and that’s just not really the case anymore. Now, when we look at this production, we find that a lot of people that are coming to see the show can’t imagine it being any other way, because we just don’t ask that of men these days: “Hey, when are you going to settle down?” But that’s still a conversation happening in our world.

In doing so, some of the other characters have also been gender-swapped. So my character, Peter, is married to Susan, and in our scene, the lines that were originally Susan’s lines are actually Peter’s lines now. So you kind of get an interesting look at gender norms, and though you feel like it would have been kind of obvious to see where the swapping has happened, it’s not always the case.

Javier Ignacio as Peter, Britney Coleman as Bobbie and Marina Kondo as Susan in the North American Tour of COMPANY. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

The Arts STL: Now, in regards to your character, in the original Company, there is a scene between Robert/Bobbie and Peter where they have a candid conversation about homosexuality, and there’s an implication that Robert and Peter are exploring a mutual attraction to each other they hadn’t considered before. With Bobbie now being female, I was curious if scenes like that were rewritten to reflect the updated gender dynamic?

JI: I know that scene has come and gone with different productions. There have been other revivals of Company since the original, although obviously ours is the first one that has the gender-swapped element. But in other productions, that scene was adjusted, and that section wasn’t always in the scene. Obviously, it was pulled from George Furth’s material at some point [Company’s original playwright].

In our Broadway production of the show, I think they wanted to bring out what the most important element was in every scene. You know, the show’s already quite long! So we needed to get straight to the point of what the major event was in a lot of the scenes. So in the second act, our couple [Peter and Susan], we find that… well, maybe I shouldn’t give it away! But their evolution as a married couple isn’t where it was in Act One, but I will say that portion is not in our show.

The Arts STL: For those who might not have seen a production of Company before, as you mentioned, it is structured as a series of vignettes, where the protagonist has scenes with their different married friends. In the original production, your character, Peter, is written as a sort of clean-cut, Ivy League graduate, and his wife Susan is kind of Southern Belle character. And as we’ve discussed, some of these archetypes might not resonate the same way in 2024 as they did in 1970, so I was wondering how these characters may have been updated for a modern audience?

JI: That is one of the beauties of getting to do a revival, is being able to modernize it in a way that keeps the material timeless. I will give full credit to Marianne Elliott, the original director for the Broadway production in New York. She is a genius, and she’s definitely an “actor’s director.” She really allowed this cast to create their own essence of the role. Whereas, yes, probably the previous productions of the show had this Southern Belle sort-of Susan and an Ivy League graduate Peter, in our production, the Susan and Peter couple is slightly… We’re cool. Well, we’re nerdy. I guess I would call Peter kind of a nerdy cool. Peter in this version works from home, has a podcast, is a photographer on the side, while Susan is this very cool ice sculptor, artist, kind of rocker, and we’re definitely the Brooklyn couple.

The Arts STL: For lack of a better word, the hipster couple?

JI: Yes, very much so. You can tell our vibe from our production photos. I mean, I wear a Weezer t-shirt.

The Arts STL: And to be clear, is this updated portrayal delivered more through subtext, like your wardrobe, or is there dialogue introduced into the script that overtly mentions these changes?

JI: No, because what’s beautiful about this show and how it’s written is that the dialogue doesn’t necessarily address who these people are, or the specificities of their jobs. You get the essence of them and their point-of-view within the dialogue. The dialogue is basically about their relationships. After seeing our production, it’s so interesting to go back, if you feel so inclined, and look at other productions of Company. It’s crazy how much you can do with this material, because it’s timeless. It’s very versatile, and it’s beautifully written, so it holds up on its own.

Britney Coleman as Bobbie (center) and the North American Tour of COMPANY. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

The Arts STL: Of course, Company debuted on Broadway in 1970, and if I’m not mistaken, there have been a few revivals of it over the years, including the most recent Broadway revival, which you worked on as well.

JI: Technically, there have been some off-Broadway productions as well. The original was obviously the first Broadway production, and I think the revival starring Raúl Esparza as Robert was in 2006. I know that there was a production with Neil Patrick Harris as Robert, which I believe was at the New York Philharmonic, and that one was more like a concert film, it was actually for a theatrical release.

The Arts STL: That one was quite a star-studded affair: Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, Christina Hendricks. I know it had a lot of people known for film and TV acting.

JI: Exactly, and amazing that they could show off their musical theater skills as well. Patti LuPone was also in that, and she did the show with us on Broadway in our revival, playing the same role [Joanne]. Also amazing to see how she could find her way into the same role, but find a different tone and change the shape of the scene based on what the production was pursuing. It was gorgeous!

The Arts STL: Would you say when you’re putting on a production like this, with so much history, that you do some studying of the original production in preparation?

JI: I think it depends on everyone’s process. A lot of people are inclined to look at the original, and maybe they find that process helpful. I also assume that there are others that will say, “No! I want to see only what’s written on the page, what is in front of me for this production, and I want to form my own perspective and bring that in.” To avoid being clouded by anyone else’s interpretation, other than the people involved in their production.

Obviously, it’s a collaboration with the cast and director. I just always found it very helpful to go back and see what the original was like—you get to really appreciate the work that we’re doing with the material, and how timeless it is.

The Arts STL: When you’re in a touring production, I’m sure you enjoy seeing parts of the country outside of New York and Los Angeles, the epicenters of musical theater. Obviously, people enjoy musicals all over the U.S., and we get lots of touring productions in St. Louis, particularly at the Fox Theater. But Company is definitely a musical about New York marriages specifically, although as you’ve said, it was written to be universal and relatable.

JI: It’s true. It’s so interesting because having done the production, and having gotten to know it so well from doing it in New York, you kind of know where the laughs are, and that was sometimes shocking to realize. “Oh wait—this joke is particular to New York audiences. They know what this is because they experience it every day!” But there are reactions that we never had in New York, where you kind of understand that this community’s points of view and values are more tied to this character.

You know, everyone’s a protagonist in their scene, but there are definitely characters that stand out within each city because of what they find relatable, and that’s what’s cool about the show. The message still gets across. If you’re willing to see a show that doesn’t give you the cookie-cutter, linear plot and arc, but you really have to go into the wild, unorganized mind of Bobbie as she’s putting these things together, I think you’re going to be in for a wonderful night of theater. It’s very funny and moving, and it can be quite powerful at the end.

The Arts STL: Very well said. I’m interested to see who the deep cut character in St. Louis will be!

JI: Same, I never know!

The Arts STL: When you’re part of a touring production, you’re usually in one particular city for a whole week, with performances every night, before you pack up and move to the next one. Can you walk us through what the daily routine for a cast member is like on tour?

JI: Yeah, and you know, not every touring production is the same. There are certainly those second and third national tours which are sometimes doing one-nighters, two-nighters, split weeks.

The Arts STL: I saw a production of Hairspray a few weeks ago at the Stifel Theater in St. Louis, and that was a two-night stop, so I know it varies.

JI: Yeah, it’s likely a non-union [Actor’s Equity Association] tour if it’s doing that. Larger productions like The Lion King and Frozen have major sets that take multiple days to travel with. Some productions, like Hamilton, have multiple sets for that one production, so one set is being built while the production is in one city. So the formula is not always the same.

For our show, it’s rare that we will not do an 8-show week, because our crew is amazing. For this tour, we have shows from Tuesday through Sunday, and we do eight shows a week. On Sunday night, after our final show, our crew is already doing their loadout process, and we get local union crew that also comes in. I think they’ve gotten it down to about 5 hours loading out, post-show. Our show sometimes ends at 11:00 at night, so these guys are sometimes working until 4:00 in the morning, doing the loadout process for that show. And then they travel the next day, then load in, and we travel as well.

Our cast usually travels on Monday, so these one-weekers are difficult because we don’t really get a day off. Our day off is our travel day, you know? We jump on a plane, arrive at the new city sometime in the afternoon. Most of us are either staying at a hotel that the company provides, or have gotten Airbnbs around, but the majority of the day is spent trying to settle into the new city: get your groceries for the week, see where things are, you know, find you gym if you’re one to try to get into that routine as soon as possible. And then Tuesday is where you have a little bit more of your day to continue the settling-in process, and then you’re back at the theater.

Obviously I’m only speaking as a cast member, because on Tuesday our stage management and crew is at the theater early in the morning, loading in and setting up. The cast arrives usually around 5:00 in the afternoon to do a short meeting. Then we do a sound check, and we start getting ready for the show that night. And usually the shows have been around 7:30 on Tuesdays. Sometimes we’ll do two-show Wednesdays. If not, our understudies can be called in to rehearse on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday during the day, because every one of us that is on stage has two understudies that cover that role.

This is what I did, working as an understudy, mostly in New York, in the Broadway production. You’re learning multiple roles for the show. And so that takes a lot of rehearsal. So they’re doing that during the day while we come in at night to do the show.

The North American Tour of COMPANY. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

The Arts STL: I did see that, in your résumé, you were starring as Peter in the current production, but also were an understudy for Jamie and Andy.

JI: Yes, all three in the New York production. I was also a background extra—we had “New Yorkers” in some scenes, which essentially were just people on stage that moved letters around, and I played the waiter in the Ladies Who Lunch scene with Patti [LuPone], and that was my track on a nightly basis. But I also was the understudy for Jamie, for Peter, and for Andy, and in this production I’m just playing Peter.

The Arts STL: It sounds like because all of the cast is so familiar with many roles in the production, you would be able to serve as an understudy as well. How does that work in terms of coverage for your usual role, then?

JI: For understudies, we do have some internal coverage as well. We have two ladies in the show who are regular players at night: our Jenny and our Susan also cover Bobbie and Joanne. So what ends up happening is a domino effect, where if they move up to play those roles, then our off-stage understudies fill in for the roles that they would normally play.

The Arts STL: Makes sense—the logistics of it are very interesting to think about. I’m sure with a traveling production, just as with anything else, people get sick and injured, unfortunately. So especially when it’s a production that’s going on for a full year, I’m sure you have to have many back-up plans in order to keep the tour going.

JI: We’ve been very fortunate—no major injuries or last-minute things that have happened. I’ve certainly, as an understudy, have had that call a half-hour before showtime. Understudying during the post-pandemic was quite a task, because you truly never knew when a positive test was going to show up, and you were going to be on that night.

Our understudies so far have gotten enough notice before having to go on, and it’s really wonderful to get to see them shine in so many different roles. That’s always what’s so cool to see, the versatility of an actor. That’s something that I miss, of being part of what we call the “wonderstudies,” is getting to one night be this character, and then another night get a feel of this character. Exercising your craft in so many different ways, very cool.

The Arts STL: I’m sure as an actor in a major production like this, it’s refreshing to have a chance to not do the same song and dance, literally, from time to time.

JI: And as a regular on-stage performer, it’s always so fun to have someone new to play off of. It’s a new energy, and you have to adjust to it, and naturally they will infuse the show with their personality that night. I think it takes a true professional, and someone who is comfortable in their work, to be open, to receive that new energy, and let the scene be what it’s going to be, while still telling the same story, what we were directed to do. It’s very cool. I have such an appreciation for our understudies, they’re all truly incredible.

The Arts STL: And I would also say, as an audience member, that’s exciting, because it’s like I’m seeing what was within this production a completely unique performance, because at no other dates were these two particular actors playing these characters.

JI: Exactly. I had someone here in Columbus, two nights ago, I walked out of the stage door and was signing a program, and the person standing next to them said, “I saw you as Jamie in New York, and I just loved him!” I played that role probably fifteen times within the course of the year, the 9 months that we were there, and to know that someone happened to see that one performance and appreciated it was so gratifying. It’s really beautiful, because, truly, theater is something that happens in that room. And you share that experience with that audience that night, and it’s very unique, and you’ll never recreate it. | David Von Nordheim

Company will have performances at the Fox Theater at 7:30PM nightly from February 27th through March 10th, with additional matinee performances on weekends. The production is approximately 2.25 hours long, which includes an intermission. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Learn more about Javier at

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