Including last night's filmed version of the NY Philharmonic production of Stephen Sondheim's Company, I've have the great fortune of seeing 4 professional productions of this classic musical. Company is probably my second favorite Sondheim score (Sweeney Todd being the first), and so I looked forward to this particular production since the second it was announced, figuring that at least a live recording would be made. Then, miracles of miracles, it was announced as a film that would play theatres across the country! Of course, the reason to look forward to this particular production was that it featured one of the world's most celebrated orchestras under the baton of the truest musical director of Sondheim musicals, Paul Gemignani, and using the glorious original orchestrations of Jonathan Tunick. The wait was worth it, and I was not disappointed.
Hearing that score, the underscoring and "the vocal minority" background choral accompaniment through a crystal clear sound system gave me wave after wave of goose-bumps and smiles. It was a true thrill to hear it the way it was meant to be and not pared down due to budget restraints or directorial concept.
Of course, Company is a book musical, not through-composed, so attention must be paid to that as well. And I am happy to report that director Lonny Price and his terrific cast have not only nailed the pathos and darker undercurrents of the show, but they have also brought the sense of humor - cynical and "New Yawk" as it is - back to a piece that has, in more recent productions, become mired down in the long-running quest to demystify the Sondheim influence. As with Sweeney Todd, and all of his musicals, really, Sondheim's darker side is much deeper and more interesting when coupled with the sense of wonder and humor that his shows have. That couldn't be more true than with this particular production of Company. Joanne's cynical bitchiness is much more interesting when you get to see the way she uses humor like putty that holds her cracked veneer of harshness precariously in place. Amy's terror at taking the plunge is always played for laughs, but when the actress playing the role is allowed moments of soul-searching seriousness, it makes her ultimate decision that much more clear and understandable. And, of course, showing a delight and love and sense of humor for all of his relationships makes each and every one of Bobby's couple-specific mood swings and life-changing realizations much more "everyman-relatable" than when he is played as a one-note self-loathing/self-absorbed/self-questioning bore (in other productions, it has been a take your pick of any of the three - at least here, Bobby is a mix).
The Company Company
Neil Patrick Harris, Jon Cryer and Jennifer Laura Thompson