5 Questions with Matt Rodin
Phone rings, door chimes—in comes company. “Company,” the seminal 1970 George Furth/Stephen Sondheim musical that was revived in London and on Broadway by the British director Marianne Elliot, who famously switched the gender of the lead character from Bobby to Bobbi with Sondheim’s permission and approval, has begun its tour at Proctors in Schenectady. The revival on Broadway, starring Katrina Lenk and Patti Lupone, won five Tony Awards, including Best Revival and Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Matt Doyle, who won for the part of Jamie. I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes with the new Jamie, Matt Rodin, as we celebrated “Company” at its first tour stop at Proctors, where the production teched, and the fact that “Company” is also Matt’s first tour.
PW: When did you know that theater was for you?
MR: When I was probably five years old, I saw a high school production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and there was something about that magic; there was something about that thing happening live in front of me that was so awe-inspiring that I turned to my mom and said, “That’s the thing I want to do.” And sure enough, it was followed by me watching Cathy Rigby’s “Peter Pan” over and over and over again, reciting every word. Yeah, from pretty early on. I knew that this was something I really, really wanted to do.
PW: Where are you from? Where did you go to school?
MR: I grew up outside of Chicago and didn’t really do any professional theater there, but I ended up pursuing a degree in musical theater, and I went to Boston Conservatory which I had an amazing time at. Really hard, challenging program, but super rewarding, and my whole m.o. is that you get out what you put in and I really felt I got a lot out of that program and in addition to the skills and abilities, just the relationships and the friendships. Then I moved to New York City right after school, and it’s been almost ten years in the city.
PW: What’s it been like working on a touring production? Have you done a tour before? What’s the vibe? Was Marianne Elliot in the rehearsal room?
MR: First tour. A little bit. I have never worked on a tour before. I grew up outside of Chicago, and I have been dying to be on a tour because I saw every tour that came through Chicago, that’s how I saw theater as a kid, as a teen.
Marianne was in the room for 2 or 3 days of the process to just sort of give us a go-ahead and a big push, and she assembled this unbelievable team of associates from choreography to music. They really are the best of the best of the best. And it really felt like her energy and her spirit, that thing that they created from the very beginning—were still in the room.
What I love about this production in particular, the touring production, is it’s true to the essence of the London production, but it feels new. It’s a different group of people, it’s 2023, it just has a flavor of now. You know, you can get a tour that feels like it’s just a recreation, and this isn’t that. The cast is so, so, so amazing and I think the audience is going to really, really respond to it.
PW: Who do you play in the musical, and what do they do?
MR: I play Jamie, and I sing really fast. (laughs) Jamie is one of Bobbi’s married friends. It was originally Amy in the original production. That role is known in Sondheim’s work as having one of the most demanding patter songs, it goes about a thousand miles an hour, and in this production, Marianne decided to, with Steve’s permission, switch the gender of the lead to see the story in a new way so Jamie is in a homosexual relationship with his husband, Paul. At the point in the show where we meet him, he is going through an existential crisis of commitment and is deciding whether or not he wants to marry his partner Paul and we sort of peek into his head for a moment.
It’s the only moment in the show that Bobbi is not a part of. The only moment in the show that she doesn’t narrate. Jamie is the only character who breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly, which is a cool moment and leads to a cool discussion of why that is and what that means and as a queer actor playing a queer character who is 31 like me and is going through the crisis of what does commitment mean, I identify with that really deeply.
My final callback was the day of my wedding. So, I got married at 11 a.m., and at 2 p.m., I sang “Getting Married Today,” so it all felt very serendipitous, and yeah, it’s such a gift of a role. Sondheim is such a genius with the rhythms and the patter, which is so fun to play with and challenging, and a joy to get to sing every night. I think people really get a kick by the song going that fast, but also, you’re watching someone have a breakdown in real-time. They all can identify with that just a little bit.
PW: What is a play or musical that changed your life and how?
MR: When I was in college, I went to school in Boston, and I’d come to the city with some friends on long weekends, winter breaks, or whatever, and I would go see shows. After my sophomore year of college, I was pretty certain there wasn’t a place for me in the theater. I just didn’t feel like I fit in. I didn’t feel what I had to offer was going to be accepted or welcomed in the industry, and my sophomore year, I bought a solo, rush ticket to “Once” on Broadway. I sat by myself and wept for 2 ½ hours, and I decided I wanted to stay in school because I felt maybe there was a place for me, maybe there would be an opportunity in this industry. In a weird way, it just gave me the hope that who I am and what I had to give would be welcome, and I’m so grateful that happened because it’s been an amazing 10 years in the city. I never, never expected to be in this, a Sondheim show! I’m a pop/rock girlie. I’m a singer-songwriter. That’s where my bread and butter is. This is the first show I haven’t played an instrument in.