Canfield native keeps ‘Company’ with tour

Canfield native Elysia Jordan is spending the next three weeks in Cleveland.

Whether she makes it on stage at Playhouse Square’s Connor Palace between now and May 19 remains to be seen. Such is the life of the theater understudy. Jordan, who regularly appeared on local stages growing up as Elysia Shutrump, is the understudy for several female roles on the North American tour of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.”

She’s done it before, working as an understudy on tours for the musical “School of Rock.” However, for the performances when she didn’t have to step in to play a larger role, she still was on stage eight shows a week as part of the ensemble.

“Company,” featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by George Furth, doesn’t have an ensemble. So if everyone is healthy and no one has the night off, she stays offstage.

“It’s 100% the luck of the draw,” Jordan said during a telephone interview.

Perhaps she’ll get lucky like last month when the tour was in Pittsburgh. Jordan played Sarah for every performance at the Benedum Center and knew that at the start of the week, so it was easy for family and friends to come see her.

“My parents are still in Canfield, and I stayed with them when we were in Pittsburgh,” Jordan said. “They spent the whole week basically commuting back and forth with me, seeing almost every show. ‘You really don’t have to do that. You can stay home.’ ‘No, we’re coming. We can’t wait.'”

She’ll stay with her family during the Cleveland run as well.

“I have a lot of fun family time coming up,” she said. “It’s the best of both worlds, doing this amazing show and getting to be around the people you love.”

Jordan has a lot of love for “Company” as well. The musical made its Broadway debut in 1970, winning the 1971 Tony Awards for best musical, best score and best book. The 2021-22 revival, on which the current tour is based, won the 2022 Tony for best revival after a successful debut in London.

That revival made one significant change from previous productions.

The original lead character was Bobby, a 35-year-old single man surrounded by married friends and pondering his fear of intimacy.

In the revival, Bobby is now Bobbie, a 35-year-old woman, and the gender flip reframes those questions.

“I actually saw this production in London,” Jordan said. “I purposely went because, oh my gosh, Bobbie as a woman, I have to see that. I had no idea that I would have an audition or that there would be a tour or anything. So I saw that, and at the time I was single and dating and thought it just worked so well. It made so much sense for it to be a 35-year-old woman, and I felt really seen and it had moments that were really poignant and moments I thought were really funny. I just loved it.

“Then it came to Broadway. By the time I saw it, I was with my fiance, so watching it on Broadway, oh, wow, certain moments are striking me different now that I’m engaged. Different things are funny, different things are scary. Things are striking me about marriage at a different vantage point.

“Then when I got the audition for the show, I was married and I’m doing the audition as a married person, so it’s really been interesting to see how from those three vantage points the show has moved me in different ways. It’s a testament to how amazing the book is and the music and how you think you know what a song is about, but Sondheim’s lyrics are so nuanced and profound that on different days different parts of the show strike me. Even now after 200 times, I’m still like, oh that’s an amazing lyric.”

Having to be ready to play multiple characters also lets her see the music from multiple vantage points.

“You have to be more of an expert on the entire show versus flushing out one role again and again and again. I now know every harmony, all of the music Sondheim wrote for the show. And it’s interesting how the different pieces come together. The more I learn about one part then when I’m learning another part, oh yeah, this first part fits into that part. It’s definitely a completely different experience than being responsible for just one role.

“I’ve loved Sondheim since I was growing up in Youngstown as a little kid, so it’s really special to spend this much time with his music.”

Jordan credits her experiences growing up doing theater locally with shaping her current career path.

“I spent my whole childhood doing theater in the area, so many shows with Maureen (Collins) and Todd (Hancock) at Easy Street and so many at the Playhouse,” she said. “Youngstown has such an incredible theater community and so many incredible, passionate people.

“That’s what was so amazing about coming back for those symphony concerts with Easy Street (‘Guys & Dolls’ in 2018 and ‘South Pacific’ in 2019). My first show was ‘Annie’ at the Playhouse when Maureen and Tood were there. I think I was in first grade, and since then I’ve not stopped doing shows, and I knew immediately that’s what I wanted to do. I definitely think of all those wonderful people often and am really grateful I had the opportunity to be in so many shows growing up.”


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