The book for "Company" has undergone a thorough rewrite from the original 1970 version, resulting in dialogue more attuned to the new millennium. As the couples interact with the bachelor protagonist Robert, the themes of marriage, divorce, loneliness, and life in the big city emerge in a montage of scenes built around some of most memorable music and lyrics ever written by Sondheim. This production was not "fluff," but a meaningful exploration of love, marriage, and the search for happiness in the stressful modern age.
This production isolated the performers on the forestage of the large Avery Fisher Hall. Supported (but not overwhelmed) by the magnificent New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the cast of "Company" brought the characters to life with a dazzling set of creative choices and physical routines. Many of the bits of business were undoubtedly the ideas of the skillful director Lonny Price. The potentially static horizontal plane was occasionally broken when performers interacted with the orchestra and the conductor, adding to the ensemble effect. For the filmed version, the camera work was superb, especially with close-ups. It was like being on the stage with the actors.
The cast obviously worked tirelessly on subtleties of performance and honesty in the emotional life of their characters. Along with his fine vocal technique, Harris evoked a sensitive character interpretation, and the other performers followed his lead. Every viewer will have a "favorite" performer in this production. It was clear that the live New York audience adored the crusty character of Joanne, as played by Patti LuPone. My favorite was Martha Plimpton's character of Sarah, due to the performer's adroit physical choices in the karate scene and her beautiful singing voice. There was also a "surprise" ending in a special touch that transformed the overall meaning of the musical from the original 1970 version. But there are no spoilers in this review. You will have to seize the moment and experience this unique production for yourself for that ending.
The range of abilities in this talented cast cannot be overstated. Technically, the Sondheim songs are not easy. The effortless vocal interpretations, the challenging choreography, and the depth of feeling in the characters made the $18 cinema ticket price a bargain for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is the kind of company I like to keep.