Theater

Katrina Lenk Never Expected To Lead The Company Revival

Broadway audiences will hear her natural accent for the first time.

In Broadway's Company musical, Katrina Lenk plays Bobbie.
Susan Stripling
By Leigh Scheps

When Katrina Lenk learned she’d booked the lead role in Broadway’s Company revival, she shrieked — a wild, wordless eruption of noise. She was on a sidewalk in New York’s theater district around the fall of 2019, and describes the scene as characteristic of the city. “Someone’s screaming on the street, who cares?” she recounts to Bustle with a chuckle.

For the previous month, the Midwestern actor had been auditioning for the role, Bobbie, in small work sessions for the nascent production — in which actors get direction on scenes and songs from the creative team — but in the theater world, there’s no guarantee these workshops translate to real-stage spotlight, even if you’re a Tony winner like Lenk. So when her manager called with the news, she remembers thinking, “Now I have to do it, [but] it’s super intimidating because it’s these titans [such as Stephen] Sondheim and director Marianne Elliott.”

She’d just walked out of a feedback session with the show’s creative team, who’d invited a special guest for that session: the musical’s composer himself, Sondheim. “[It] was not nerve-racking at all,” she jokes now. And Lenk is used to high-pressure situations. Before her Tony-winning turn as Dina in the 2017 musical The Band’s Visit, she’d also originated multiple related roles in Paula Vogel’s critical darling Indecent, played a violinist in Once, and a mythical spider in Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark.

All of those roles have required an accent — Israeli for Dina, for example — so with Company, she’ll be using her own Midwestern voice for the first time on Broadway. This revival of Sondheim’s 1970 musical gender-swaps the protagonist, so “Bobby” becomes “Bobbie,” a single woman celebrating her 35th birthday with friends, who keep asking why she isn’t married yet. The show was scheduled to open in March 2020, timed to Sondheim’s 90th birthday, but was ultimately postponed to December 2021 because of Broadway’s pandemic closures.

Sondheim attended the musical’s first preview in mid-November, a colorful celebration complete with balloons and party hats, and spoke to the cast after the show. “He was smiling, so happy and filled with stories and jokes,” Lenk remembers. “He seemed really thrilled with how the show went, and told us to cherish this feeling and experience in the theater, because it doesn't happen all the time.” He passed away 10 days later.

Lenk and co-star Patti LuPone carry his legacy forward, eight times a week at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. (Lupone, for her part, cherishes live theater in part with a popcorn machine in her dressing room.) “He was always super encouraging and in my corner,” Lenk says of the late composer, “in both positive and critical ways, which I appreciated a lot.”

Learn more about the Broadway belter in the Bustle questionnaire, below.

In 2018, both Lenk and Tony Shalhoub won lead acting Tony Awards for The Band’s Visit.Kevin Mazur/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Lenk and Reeve Carney in a 2012 production of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.Andy Kropa/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
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In The Bustle Booth

What's your coffee order?

Well, the one I just spilled all over my pants was a dark roast coffee with oat milk, LOL.

What are the saved weather locations on your phone?

Two New Yorks — one right now is 11 degrees colder than the other (?!) — Chicago, Verkhoyansk, Petah Tikva, LA, Atlanta.

What’s your sign?

Sagittarius.

Favorite overused movie quote?

“I drink your milkshake.”

What was your favorite cartoon as a kid?

Bugs Bunny.

What’s one musical or song you're currently obsessed with?

The live version of “Unfollow the Rules” by Rufus Wainwright.

Who is your celeb idol?

Angelina Jolie. She actually appeared in my dream last night to speak to my class. I was late, my hair was wet, and she gave me such stink-eye. I was devastated.

Go-to karaoke song?

“Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar.

What’s something that’s inspiring you lately?

Our Company understudies, assistant directors, and stage management team. HEROES.

What is something you would want people to say about you?

Oh God, this took me three days to figure out, and the best I could come up with is, “I like her.”

Company is currently playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (242 West 45th St.) in New York City.