Throngs of fans make a beeline for the stage door as the house lights rise at the end of Company, Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's 1970 coming-of-age musical directed by Julianne Boyd at Barrington Stage Company in the Berkshires. They all want to catch a glimpse of Aaron Tveit, who, through September 10, is making a rare stage appearance after several years in the land of television and film. Tveit plays Bobby, the 35-year-old bachelor who learns, from his friends, how to commit to the idea of marriage.
Company marks the actor's second Sondheim show but the first real stage role in his career that has him playing an adult. It's an opportunity he's clearly relishing after playing teens and early twentysomethings for so long on Broadway (in musicals like Hairspray, Next to Normal, Wicked, and Catch Me If You Can) and on TV's Grease Live!
The musical puts Tveit through the emotional wringer every night; during a recent Saturday evening performance, the actor got extremely emotional during his 11-o'clock number, "Being Alive." Immediately after he took his bow and cooled down, he met TheaterMania in the greenroom to discuss the experience of playing a character at an ambivalent stage of his life, standing on the threshold of the next step in adulthood.
It's 10:45pm, and you've just finished your second performance on a two-show Saturday. How do you feel?
Julianne Boyd, our director, saw the show tonight, and I told her I think this is the hardest eight-show week I've ever done. This is so emotionally draining that at the end of two shows, I'm like, "Oh my god." I'm just a puddle.
Tell me about your experiences doing Sondheim shows. Was Company always on your radar?
I got to do Assassins a couple of years ago on the West End, and that was my first professional Sondheim experience. That was a really cool production. It was set in this weird, dilapidated amusement park, and we were onstage the whole time. I jumped at the opportunity to do another one of his shows.
Company was definitely one of the ones that was on my list as I got older. A lot of the work I did before was playing kids onstage. I'm really grateful that the different work I've been doing the last few years has allowed me to get a little bit older with roles. [It's a challenge here] because you open the show so fast and the run's so short. But I'm getting close to figuring out the character.
What is it like to sing "Being Alive" every night?
That song is one of the, if not the, greatest songs ever written within the context of a show. You just have to go for it. I almost lost it tonight. Somehow I held it back, but I did not make it through "Being Alive" until very late in the song without completely losing it. It's like a high-wire act. It's so fascinating.
How do you put your own stamp on a character that has had so many acclaimed interpretations in past productions?
I'm really lucky that I've gotten to play some roles that others have made big stamps on before. I look at them completely brand-new. I saw the 2006 [pared down] revival; I know Raúl Esparza a little bit and thought he was amazing in it. But that was the only experience I had with the show. I've never really seen a "traditional" production of Company, so I came in really fresh.
I'm a very positive, optimistic guy, and I think that bleeds into this version a bit. That's something Julie and I talked about early on, and she was totally on board with that as well. People say he's a commitment-phobe, but I'd argue that he's utterly committed to all of his friends. So I went in it from that angle. It's a very earnest production.
What's the biggest thing you've learned from doing Company?
It's a reminder that nobody's perfect and that, especially in this day and age of social media, where everybody is just presenting whatever they want for their life, it's easy to look at other people and think, "Oh, their life is so perfect." I think this show really talks about how it's the imperfections that bring us together. All of these different examples of marriage could be taken as negative, but ultimately, they all truly love each other. You take the good and the bad. That's what I'm learning from this.
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