More than 15 years after his Broadway debut, Matt Doyle is finally getting some richly deserved recognition ― thanks to a reimagined, forward-thinking take on a 52-year-old musical.
The New York actor, 35, is a Tony nominee for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance in the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” now playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on Broadway. He stars as the skittish Jamie, a gay groom-to-be who is having last-minute doubts about his relationship with fiancé Paul (Etai Benson).
“I feel like the roles that I always go after are roles that I would never book, but the ones that are the most right really fall into my lap,” Doyle told HuffPost. “I knew as soon as we started rehearsals what a huge moment this would be, and that I was going to enjoy taking on the material. It’s been such a wonderful gift.”
Directed by Marianne Elliott, the new “Company” swaps the genders of several characters from the 1970 original to offer a fresh, 21st-century take on love, marriage and intimacy.
The show now centers on the defiantly single Bobbie (Katrina Lenk), flipped from bachelor Bobby, as she prepares to celebrate her 35th birthday with a diverse group of New Yorkers who are partnered up. In previous productions, Paul and Jamie were depicted as Paul and Amy, a heterosexual couple.
Sondheim, who was gay, died at age 91 in November, just weeks before “Company” opened on Broadway. However, the composer was a frequent presence in the rehearsal studio and, according to Doyle, became visibly emotional after hearing the words he’d written for a straight woman performed by a gay man.
“The last time this show was revived was in 2006, when same-sex marriage wasn’t a legal right, so I don’t think he imagined Jamie would ever evolve in that way,” said the actor, who previously worked with Sondheim on a production of “Sweeney Todd” in 2017. “But he was resistant to his shows becoming museum pieces. He believed in new ideas and new concepts. So thank you, Stephen, for letting me do it.”
While Doyle’s performance in “Company” is his first to garner awards buzz, he’s been known as a prolific talent in theater circles across the country for some time. He first appeared on Broadway in 2007 as a stand-by in “Spring Awakening,” and later assumed the part of Hanschen. Since then, he’s starred in “War Horse,” also directed by Elliott, and “The Book of Mormon,” among other shows.
The actor has found many parallels between his current role and his offstage life. Though he’s happily been together with boyfriend Max Clayton, a fellow Broadway actor, for seven years, he said he’s “self-sabotaged” a number of romantic relationships in the past.
Known for being frank about his own mental health concerns, Doyle describes Jamie’s rapid-fire, tongue-twisting showstopper “Getting Married Today” as “the most perfectly written panic attack in theater.”
“I have an anxiety disorder and a panic attack disorder, and I had to figure out what that was when I was 13 years old,” Doyle said. “I felt seen by the song, I felt seen in the music, and I was so excited to take it on because it’s something I understand really well.”
Doyle is also thrilled to be working alongside Patti LuPone, who plays Bobbie’s caustic gal pal Joanne and is also nominated for a Tony. In recent weeks, LuPone has made waves with a number of viral moments on social media. Behind the scenes, Doyle has come to view the famously outspoken Broadway legend as a professional ballast.
“She says: ‘Knock ‘em dead, kid!’ to me every night, and I’ve always felt very taken care of by her,” Doyle said. “The thing about Patti is that she’s always right. You might not like how it comes out, but she’s always right.”
Doyle is set to appear on June 12 with the rest of the “Company” cast at the 2022 Tony Awards, where the musical is up for a total of nine awards. Even if he doesn’t take home a Tony, he’s hopeful his performance in the show will open doors for him to tackle other aspects of queer life in future projects.
“A lot of my characters have been boyfriends or husbands, but chosen family is such a real thing when it comes to New York City and being queer in general,” he said. “If I could do a project that really embraces that experience, that would be really special to me.”