An Actors Experience
by Nick Kong.
Playing Bobby is a dream come true for me.
I grew up in a Traralgon - 2 hours east of Melbourne - and they had a flourishing local theatre community, whom I credit for my passion for music theatre. When I was in Year 8 I was in my very first Sondheim show, a production of Follies (they were desperate for men… even if they were 13). It was during this I heard the song Being Alive for the first time. It was a special for Sir Cameron Macintosh’s 50th Birthday on the ABC and Bernadette Peters sang the song. I had no idea what the lyrics were about but I found the build in the music fascinating. Being a ‘deep and meaningful’ 13 year old, I loved the ballad and the emotion that it carried but was highly disappointed that is seemed it was a female song.
As luck would have it, the Melbourne Theatre Company produced Company the following year and my ever supportive parents took some friends and I down to see it. When I watched it, I was in awe. In awe about how brilliant the script was. It is so very rare to find a script with such substance in musical theatre. Company has no through line. Rather it could be viewed as a series of vignettes about one mans quest to find meaning in his life. Each vignette introduces Bobby to a different married couple - who are grappling with marriage in some form. The script is beautifully hilarious at one moment, then the next scene presents heart breaking pathos. The music is where the show really comes alive. Sondheim has created a score rich in social reflections and music theatre standards (3 of them Bobby’s).
And the best part for 13 year old me? The realisation that Being Alive was a male song! I travelled that song to every bloody eisteddfod and Trinity Exam across the state. The song also gave me a great love for Sondheim himself and I seek to perform his music whenever I can.
Now that I am older the story of Company is no longer a series of events that one man journeys through. Rather, I view it as a surreal retrospective of moments from Bobby’s life and perspective. He knows that society dictates that by the age of 35 a man should be married with children, however, when he reflects on the lives of his friends, he fails to see the joy and security that a Hallmark Card would call the ‘ideal’. He craves the idea of love, but cannot commit to it - and to his friends, his time is running out. I am almost 35 now, not married (although for different reasons) and having grown up in a small country town, I fully grasp the pressure Bobby faces due to societies expectations.
I am unbelievably excited to delve into this script with such a beautiful cast and I am so grateful to the production team for allowing me the chance to play one of the great male characters in music theatre. The best part is that now I am no longer a young boy who can merely sing this song rather a man who has had the life experience to tell this story.