This is too long for an ask, and FYSS lacks a Submit box, so I subject you to my ramble this way:
It seems to me that “or my service will explain,” has become the only untenably dated lyric for productions of Company which do not overtly intend to be 70s period pieces.
Given the other modernizing changes which were made for the 2006 revival, I’ve been contemplating possible alternatives—something like “or I’ll text you to explain.” It’s difficult to find one which sings as well and conveys the same übercontemporary cynicism and detachment as the original would have at the time. I’d be interested to learn your thoughts on this lyric in particular, and in general on modernizing shows intended to be cuttingly current as-written. How “frozen” must a show remain if anachronism is death to the intended experience?
I would argue that there are other lyrics in Company that keep it tethered to the 70s, and even more so, there are elements from the book - basically all of it - that keep it tethered to the 70s. (Can you really play that pot smoking scene as taking place in 2013 convincingly? I don’t think so. Ditto for the karate scene. Ditto for the discotheque scene.) Why do you feel the need to modernize the text? Do you not trust an audience in 2013 to relate to characters in 1971?
I’m not sure that everything intended to be “cuttingly current” can remain “cuttingly current” for the duration - nor should it. Rent and A Chorus Line both became period pieces during their original Broadway runs, but that didn’t hurt the effect of either. In fact, early on in the run of A Chorus Line, there was an attempt to “modernize” the references (both in script and costumes), and it didn’t work, so the production reverted to its original form and went on to become the longest-running show on Broadway. If shows have something true to say about the human condition at the time of their original production, that truth should shine through even once it is no longer contemporary.
And if you really, really must dress it up in a different era, why do you need to change the text? Somehow people manage to accept Rigoletto set in Vegas in the 60s or Romeo and Juliet set in Venice Beach in the ’90s despite texts that clearly refer to other times and places. If an audience can hear “sword” and see a gun and make sense of it, I promise you they can survive a passing reference to an answering service without the play falling apart for them.
"But Sondheim updates his shows!" Sure, and if you write a show, feel free to update it.
I am live tweeting my first (and likely last) exposure to Il Divo’s new show tunes album and you are missing it. But you don’t have to.