The sexual politics of 2024 are a far cry from what they were in 1970, when Stephen Sondheim wrote Company, arguably the first in a string of brilliant Broadway shows that together encompass the peak of his talents.

It's a show about being single in New York City in one's 30s, and a show about being married in one's 30s, and about the pressures and goading a single man at the time (1970) would have had to endure from his middle-class married friends, as they both envy his freedom and wish he would join their lot.

It makes sense that in trying to revive the show several years ago in London, director Marianne Elliott (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the National Theatre's Angels In America) looked to make some changes. Setting aside the fact that its rarer these days for a friend group in New York in their 30s to be majority married, we're also a lot less anxious about marriage as a society, arguably, than we were 50 years ago. Get married, don't get married, most friends wouldn't tell you you're wrong either way. (And the original Company had some dance-around-it innuendo about Bobby being gay and repressed, which would just feel dated and silly now.)

The biggest star of this new production may, indeed, be the dazzling set design by Bunny Christie, with a series of LED-framed gray boxes functioning as different tiny New York apartments that slide and click together in clever configurations.

While Sondheim's songs and the original book by George Furth are sensitive to the nuances and conflicted emotions around marriage — one of the Act I numbers, "Sorry Grateful," contains lyrics like "You're sorry-grateful, regretful-happy, why look for answers where none occur?" — this is still a show whose sole thrust is the pressure to be married, and how one single person ultimately gives in and decides, yes, they will find a partner, because "alone is not alive."

That single person in this Tony-winning production is a woman named Bobbie (played by the excellent Britney Coleman), instead of a man named Bobby. Like in the original show, this Bobbie likes a glass of whiskey and a roll in the hay with a relative stranger. And, like in the original show, Bobbie is something of an unsolved mystery, a fairly under-developed character who gets sung at through most of the show, cajoled into the idea that marriage is a good and stabilizing thing, and then has two big numbers in which to express her thoughts on coupledom.

The story, insomuch as there is one, is told through vignettes. One couple, Harry and Sarah (James Earl Jones II and Kathryn Allison), express their frustrations with each other in front of Bobbie in what's usually a comical jiu-jitsu scene in their living room, while Sarah is dieting and on a health kick and Harry is reluctantly trying to quit drinking. This is accompanied by the rest of the company singing the light-hearted "The Little Things You Do Together," that contains classic Sondheim lyrics like "[It's] The concerts you enjoy together/ neighbors you annoy together/ children you destroy together / that keep marriage intact."

In this version, the song is recast as something a tinge darker, with dim lighting and part of a bouncy bridge removed — still humorous, but somehow sinister as well.

That mismatch of tone between the direction and the songwriting continues in other moments of the show. Though it's hard to pinpoint one as jarring as in the famous Act 2 number "The Ladies Who Lunch," in which a drunk Joanne (a role made famous by Elaine Stritch, and played here ably but with less force by Judy McLane) gives a "toast," in song, to the pathetic wealthy women of New York who pretend to take in culture and spend their days shopping and drinking. The song has always been dark, of course, but in Stritch's version and others, it was a song of a kind of empowerment — a "cheers" from one drunk to another, but with a healthy dose of self-awareness and celebration. Here, as directed by Elliott, Joanne and her third or fourth vodka stinger comes off more pathetic herself, staring into space during an awkward silence and then telling Bobbie she ought to go "make it" with her husband.

This exchange, and perhaps seeing Joanne's husband Larry (Derrick Davis) taking care of her, is supposed to propel us into Bobbie's big 11 o'clock number "Being Alive," in which she comes to her big revelation about wanting "someone to need you too much" and "know you too well." And despite the singers' talents, both songs end up falling a bit flat, deflated by the weight of the direction, but also, perhaps, how the show's mechanics even function in modern times.

Derrick Davis as Larry, Judy McLane as Joanne and Britney Coleman as Bobbie in the North American Tour of COMPANY. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Yes, this production is liberally changed, even casting the couple getting married as gay — and the "bride" who sings the famous "I'm Not Getting Married Today," which is done hilariously here, by the way as a man. But it doesn't go far enough to make the show relevant for a contemporary audience, the way it surely must have felt relevant and even edgy in its day. It was a show questioning the value of marriage while at the same time promoting it, which was nothing if not provocative for a Broadway audience at the time.

In a Chronicle opinion piece today, Tony Bravo notes the casting of this production of Company and asks, rhetorically, "Why not take it further and have a production with a same-sex slant?" He argues, "a mid-30s queer person, someone not raised with the expectation of same sex marriage but now faced with that possibility, would be another way to flip the story that would reveal even more about the material’s depth and possibilities."

Such changes would involve an almost wholesale rewriting of many parts of the show, but it could work! And the great Sondheim likely wouldn't have a problem with it, just as he had no problem with the casting of this production.

Unfortunately, though, while this production is sure to please Sondheim fans who will simply revel in hearing the score sung live again, it's hard to see it thrilling audiences who are new to the material, and who don't know or relate to its origins. Questioning the value of marriage doesn't have the same edge today, and this spin on Company never really finds anything to replace it.

'Company' runs through June 29 at the Orpheum Theater. Find tickets here.