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Rosalie Craig On Making History As Bobbie in ‘Company’

10 December 2018 by Matt Wolf
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Rosalie Craig in “Company”

It’s not easy making history twice, but that’s what Rosalie Craig has managed and within not very many years. In 2013, the English actor-singer, now 38, became the first-ever recipient of a new prize for Best Musical Performance at London’s annual Evening Standard Theatre Awards – on that occasion for her performance as the airborne heroine of the Tori Amos musical “The Light Princess,” a National Theatre production directed by Marianne Elliott.

Fast forward five years to Nov. 18, when she won her second Musical Performance prize from the same organisation (full disclosure: this writer is on the advisory panel for the Standard’s theater gongs). This time, she was honored for playing the first-ever Bobbie in the Stephen Sondheim and George Furth musical “Company,” now at the Gielgud Theatre and co-starring Patti LuPone as Joanne; Elliott, once again, is the director.

“I just couldn’t quite believe it,” a still-excited Craig told me when we spoke by phone several days after the ceremony, not long before Craig was to leave home for that night’s performance as a female version of the 35-year-old unmarried male, Bobby, who until now sat at the center of Sondheim’s enduring classic. So there was much to discuss as Craig continued to process a degree of acclaim that by rights should transport her in time Stateside.

How is it feeling at this point to have made history as Bobbie, now that this gender-flipped “Company” is up and running and has extended its West End run through March?
It just feels like a relief. I was saying to some friends last night that I’ve always been such a firm believer in the project and so passionate about the idea of it and Marianne’s commitment to it. But at the same time, you never quite know if it’s going to come together or whether the piece will be accepted or, indeed, come off.

By now, surely you feel as if it has?
Yes, but what we didn’t expect was that people would be so receptive and that [the production] would speak not just to women who are in a predicament like Bobbie’s but to anyone who has given thought to relationships and marriage.

Has anything surprised you about the piece in performance?
I didn’t anticipate it being so funny! We definitely didn’t rehearse it as if it were a comedy. Also, I’m not sure I recognized how much of a throughline there is to the show, when it can just look like a series of scenes. In the playing of it, I’ve realized the extent to which every scene leads Bobbie to [the climactic number] “Being Alive”; they’re all parts of a greater whole.

What’s it been like seeing your face on the poster plastered all over town and on the tube?
It’s certainly been hilarious for our young daughter Elvie [Craig’s husband is the actor-singer Hadley Fraser]. The first time she saw [the poster], she was just like “Mama!” And now she thinks every poster is me, and we’ve had to tell her, “Mommy’s not on every poster, darling.” The very first time she came into rehearsals was when Patti and I had been called on our own to sing with the band, so she and Patti bonded. Now every time I leave for work, [Elvie] asks me if I am going to see Auntie Patti and I’m like, “What do you mean you can call Patti LuPone your aunt? That’s ridiculous!” [Laughs]

Was it daunting working alongside such a bona fide Broadway legend
Patti and I genuinely have a very close, true friendship. I’ve never felt such support from somebody, ever! I was really sick a couple of weeks ago, and I went to my dressing room and it was full of medication that she had got for me. I always feel with Patti that she is passing on her knowledge and her wisdom and her support – and she’s been like that with the entire company.

The cast of “Company” in rehearsal. (Photographed by Helen Maybanks)

What was your initial experience of meeting Stephen Sondheim in person?
I remember when he first showed up to see us, I was just so proud of what we’d made and was hoping he would share our pride in his work and the way it was resonating now. But after the first preview I still hadn’t properly met him, so I went over and he said something I’ll never forget: “Nobody ever wants to play Bobby because you end up standing around watching everyone get the big numbers and you don’t get any of the fun bits and nobody cares about you – but not anymore. I wish I’d written it for a woman from the start.”

And how did you react to that?
[Laughs] I thought, “I’m fine, that’s good. I’m happy with that.”

And what of New York, where talk has already arisen that the show is headed before too long?
I sort of feel like New York would welcome a Sondheim production like this because the show to some extent is about New York, and I feel in my heart as if it might be a bigger box office hit there – not that it isn’t one here! We simply don’t know where we are with New York at the moment but I’ll be honest: I’ll be heartbroken if we don’t go. There are no guarantees, but I hope that we will.