Following five couples and their friend Robert (Neil Patrick Harris), the perpetual bachelor, Company explores the true meaning of being in a relationship through a series of vignettes. ... See full summary »
Neil Patrick Harris,
A shy reclusive lady is convinced by an invisible entity to sing. Subsequently, she finds herself noticed by a sleazy talent agent and her talent being showcased on-stage. She also meets a kind but nervous man who becomes her best friend.
The original Broadway production of "Company" by George Furth opened on Apr 26, 1970 at the Alvin Theater, ran for 705 performances, won the 1971 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Book and Score and is the basis for this filmed production. See more »
Company, for many people, is the show that introduced them to the art of Stephen Sondheim. I saw the original London production, with Larry Kert and Elaine Stritch, in 1972.
Not an easy piece to produce, it has a plot, but no story. Its origins in a series of unproduced one act play-lets by George Furth were developed by author and composer to provide an unexpected but brilliant commentary on relationships. It is very much a product of the time in which it was written.
One of the difficulties is that the central character Bobby the only one of his group of friends who isn't married or in a stable relationship is essentially passive, unsure and can easily be viewed as a sort of cypher, with the rest of the cast doing all the action. A successful production will overcome this. The Donmar Warehouse production does this triumphantly. As Sondheim himself remarked, this production clearly places the other characters where they belong - in Bobby's mind. Everything is in his head. His fear of commitment is gradually resolved, through a series of tableaux, culminating in his desire for the very thing that has previously frightened him.
Adrian Lester is excellent as Bobby. The fragility of his nature is shown well in his voice. I've always felt that Larry Kert, for example, was in many ways better than the originator on Broadway Dean Jones, who had the better voice. Similarly, the excellent John Barrowman, who was in the Washington 2002 revival and has a stunning voice, came across as a little too confident and positive a character.
Sheila Gish is Joanne. Perhaps even more abrasive than the original (Elaine Stritch) she holds the attention and the stage. 'The Ladies who lunch' is a number demanding a tour de force performance if it is to work, and here receives just that.
The other cast members give similarly sterling performances. The dialogue is sharp and clean and the words to the all-important musical numbers come across clearly. The diminutive stage size at the Donmar works in this piece's favour. The audience is close enough to the performers to feel a part of the action. The performance I attended showed even more clearly than this TV broadcast that everyone on stage was enjoying themselves, as was the audience. The cut number from the original production 'Marry Me a Little' is here restored to its place at the end of Act 1. All in all, a most satisfying performance of a Sondheim classic. If you can get a copy of this, grab it with both hands.
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