A bit of Company for the weekend
August 7, 2021 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Stephen Sondheim had been successful (and not) on Broadway for over a decade before Company [Wikipedia]. In a lot of ways, it redefined "musical", being less about a straightforward plot and more about emotional honesty and development. One major (and majorly entertaining) performance was a 2011 New York Philharmonic concert production [2h25m], with Neal Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, Jon Cryer, and Patti LuPone (amongst others). But, if you like comparison/contrast studies, there are others!

Let's first look back to the original production [Playbill photo slideshow and article]. There was no filming of the original production, but this famous documentary about recording the cast album [52m] is really pretty great. The documentary also has commentary by Elaine Stritch and Hal Prince, if you like that kind of thing. Finally, the original cast came back together for AIDS charity performances in 1993 (23 years after opening). This was never filmed, but rehearsals were [1h], and they are interesting. (Beth Howland does "Getting Married Today" in the original key and tempo!) Here is a 35 minute compilation from that show.

There is also a 30 minute compilation of the 1995 Broadway revival.

The 2006 revival (reimagining!) starring Raul Esparza and Barbara Walsh [2h11m] won the Best Musical Revival Tony in 2007.

Currently we are awaiting the much-pandemic-delayed Broadway opening of the London revival, which has gender-swapped Bobby for Bobbie, and has other changes to be more sexuality and gender inclusive. Possibly happening very late this year!
posted by hippybear (13 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Previously, which is focused on Getting Married Today, the "fastest number on Broadway"
posted by chavenet at 2:18 PM on August 7

So funny; I was just thinking I'd love to watch some theatre-from-home tonight and DUH why not Sondheim? I've watched the 2011 Philharmonic so the 2006 revival it is. Thanks hippybear!

[also whew not an obit post whew]
posted by youarenothere at 2:18 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]

Is everyone vibing on Company this week? I've had Being Alive stuck in my head for days after hearing it on the Sirius broadway channel and then picking around bits of different versions on Youtube. The 2011 NPH version made a strong impression on me at the time. I've added the youtube video of the 2006 one to my watch later list...
posted by Tesseractive at 2:38 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]

Due credit to the man as wordsmith as well. Back in teh day he set crossword puzzles for New York Magazine (his essay on how to solve them is worth reading) and contributed frequently to his friend Mary Ann Madden's weekly Competitions. From her, it is said, he picked up the machine gun fire patter you find in his work.
posted by BWA at 3:45 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]

This is kinda relevant - if you watch and enjoy the Pennebaker documentary w/ Stritch et al, you owe it to yourself to watch the "Original Cast Recording: Co-op" episode of Documentary Now. It's a pretty stellar parody. I think it's currently available on netflix.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 4:38 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]

In the 2006 revival, director John Doyle deployed the same idea he used for his revival of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, having the performers play their own instruments. But the technique is used to more dramatic effect in Company, where every cast member plays an instrument in throughout the show except Raul Esparza's alienated Bobby, who finds himself sitting alone at a piano for the final number, "Being Alive." As he sings, he picks the melody out, hesitantly at first, and then with more confidence, as each of the other performers join in one by one. It was one of the most moving pieces of live theater I've ever seen.
posted by How the runs scored at 4:50 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]

After you watch “Company Original Cast Recoding” watch Documentary Now! S3E03 “Original Cast Album: Co-Op”.
posted by chrchr at 4:55 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]

Also, I saw Sondheim speak at the New York Times Center and he was asked about the gender-swapped London production. He said he was dubious it would work until he heard an anecdote from director Marianne Elliott. To persuade Sondheim, Elliott had a video made of a workshop she did using a female Bobbie in the lead, as well as other switched roles. As it was wrapping up, the cameraman asked Elliott about the show, which he knew nothing about. She explained that in the original production, Bobbie was Bobby, and played by a male actor. "Oh, that would never work," the camera operator told Elliott. That was all Sondheim needed to hear.
posted by How the runs scored at 4:57 PM on August 7 [9 favorites]

My most optimistic pandemic planning moment was buying tickets for Company in January. Here's hoping!
posted by goingonit at 6:27 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]

I never expected to find myself going down a YouTube rabbit hole tonight, but that's exactly what's happening. Chavenet's link to "Not Getting Married" had a link posted on the side of called Sondheim teaches "Not Getting Married". In turn that had a link to Sondheim teaches "My Friend" from Sweeney Todd. Now, I'm watching Sondheim teaches Send in the Clowns (Part One). Link to the collected Sondheim teaches series.

He's so encouraging and helpful, it's a joy to watch.
posted by sardonyx at 6:27 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]

Yes! I love those videos, and Sondheim is so annoyingly precise about the tiniest details about the performances, and even more annoyingly right.

Also, my favorite performance on YT of Barcelona

and, after watching as many as I could find, my favorite performance of The Ladies Who Lunch
posted by LEGO Damashii at 9:19 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]

I was there! The 2011 performance was so much fun! I bought the tickets on a whim. It was advertised as a cast reading/singing only but it apparently grew into a much bigger, yet still intimate, production and it was wonderful.
posted by double bubble at 2:40 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]

There was a week during the height of the pandemic when I watched a different production of Company every day. I don't think an updated Company works at all because now it is just as much a period piece as A Little Night Music. I also have some negative thoughts about the gender-swapped version, but I don't want to be too judgy based on half a slime tutorial and it's possible that some of the issues I have with it are addressed when the show is viewed as a whole. Soon, I hope.

Btw, there's a complete version of the original Merrily We Roll Along on YouTube, terrible quality video, but amazing that it exists.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:22 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]

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