Stephen Sondheim's musical "Company" opened on Broadway in the Spring of 1970, and tradition dictates that the cast recording is done on the first Sunday after opening night. D.A. ... See full summary »
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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 »
Though "Company" was something of a sensation in time, it is the least enduring of all Sondheim's musicals. The intrinsic weakness of George Furth's book is glaringly apparent. The characters are hopelessly stereotypical leaving little credibility to the supposed relationships between the couples and their single friend Bobby. Bobby in his single predicament is dealt with superficially. We learn very little about what has really brought him to this point in his life. The bulk of this work tells us that marriage is tough. That's about the sum of it.
By contrast Sondheim's score is witty, intelligent and exciting, His later works would come to rely less on a collaborator's book and more on his own prowess for lyrics.
The challenge of making "Company" work is not an easy one. This Donmar Warehouse production fails in every conceivable way. Despite good intentions this space is simply not equipped for staging musicals. Scaling down "Into the Woods" to its own miniscule dimensions certainly added no magic. "Assassins" which was never intended for a large theatre worked well.
Though "Company" does not necessarily require a large space, the very nature of the Donmar, together with a very undersized anemic orchestra only serve to undermine the piece.
Sondheim musicals have often been performed by non singers, relying on personality, character and sheer star quality to make up for lesser vocal ability (Glynis Johns, Alexis Smith, Angela Lansbury to name a few). The bulk of the performers in this production seem to be non singers, and certainly without the aforementioned qualities to redeem their ineptitude. Those who actually can sing, simply have very unappealing voices. "Another Hundred People" a brilliant piece, was utterly butchered. (Listen to what Julia Mckenzie does with it on "Side By Side by Sondheim"). Basically there is not one decently sung number in the entire show and that spells death for any musical production.
Adrian Lester is excellent as Bobby. He's a fine, sensitive, good looking performer. His shaky vocals reflect the fragility of his character, but no matter which way you look at it, he is not a singer. "Being Alive" cannot be sung by someone who cannot really sing. Listen to Dean Jones (or better watch him in Pennebaker's documentary), it's powerful and heart rending.
The rest of the cast seem to be exactly what they are. British actors imitating New Yorkers. It's all embarrassingly artificial.
With no existing video of the original, "Company", for its problems deserves a far better representation than this production offers.
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