Winner of the 2007 Tony AwardŽ! — Sweeping all the major theater awards for Best Revival of a Musical, this beloved Stephen Sondheim-George Furth classic is more relevant today than ever before. Far ahead of its time with i... more »ts unconventional look at love and commitment in modern Manhattan, Company is an honest, funny and sophisticated portrayal of the pros and cons of marriage as seen through a 35-year-old confirmed bachelor and his enthusiastically married, slightly envious friends. With a wise and witty score including "Another Hundred People," "Side by Side by Side," "The Ladies Who Lunch" and "Being Alive," this Broadway production of Company offers musical comedy at its finest.« less
"Company is one of my favorite Sondheim shows so far (the others being Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George). It's a show that requires good acting and showcases outstanding acting. The ensemble numbers are beautiful. The Original Broadway Cast recording sounds very 1970s-ish, but the revival orchestration has updated the music to sound modern and classy. The musical has three of my favorite songs: "Being Alive," "The Ladies Who Lunch," and "Getting Married Today." The show is funny and witty, but it carries a strong message, too. Marriage, in fact any kind of commitment, is a compromise. It sucks that when we choose one path, we close many others, but that's what life is about. Life is about making choices. There's nothing wrong with Bobby being a bachelor. The problem is that it's all he knows. He's never tried anything else. He's never made a choice; he's always waiting to see what other people do. Joanne's stinging number "The Ladies Who Lunch" reminds Bobby (and the audience) that you can sit around wasting your life pretending you're actually living it. Delusion is insidious. There are so many ways to waste time, whether it's going to fittings, taking in high art like Mahler symphonies and Pinter plays, mocking other people, surfing the internet (wait, that's not in the musical...) I loved Raul Esparza as Bobby. He played a very calm, sweet guy who gradually becomes more and more distraught about being as an outsider. His rendition of "Being Alive" is amazing, beyond words. The supporting cast is directed to be that -- "supporting" so if you're looking for an Elaine Strich-like "Ladies", get the OBC recording. I like this choice, because it makes Bobby the focal point, as it should be. This revival is in the controversial John Doyle actor-doubling-as-musician style. The fact that the instruments were onstage gave the musical a cabaret feel. The cabaret feel was enhanced by the simple, black costumes and mostly bare set. Marriage and relationships are an intimate topic and the intimate setting works wonderfuly. The piano was used very effectively. I liked seeing Marta sing while sitting on top of the piano. I liked watching Bobby clumsily climb on top of the piano (emphasizing that he's still a boyish voyeur). I liked how the actor stopped playing the piano and closed the keyboard case just as Barbara Walsh was finishing "The Ladies Who Lunch." There were some instances where the actors-playing-instruments concept didn't work, but for the most part, I enjoyed it and the great camera direction by Lonny Price made the actor movement not too distracting."
Wonderful DVD Extras Complement a Sparkling Update of Sondhe
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 05/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Marry me a little, Love me just enough. Cry but not too often, Play but not too rough. Keep a tender distance So we'll both be free. That's the way it ought to be....
Only Stephen Sondheim could come up with such sophisticated couplets to a love song as disquieting as the beautiful "Marry Me a Little". I was very fortunate to have seen the enthralling 2006 production at the Ethel Barrymore Theater last season, and I'm thrilled it has been captured for posterity on DVD as part of PBS's "Great Performances" series. There is something supremely ironic about how a 37-year old show, already revived twice, can feel fresher than most Broadway musicals written today. However, when the music reflects Sondheim at his most accomplished with performers so adept, it becomes a moot point, even though several of the songs here have been inescapable at karaoke bars for years from the lips of overly zealous musical theater aficionados.
Staged like a minimalist cabaret act, John Doyle's joyous revival uses the same technique he used in his 2005 production of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, specifically he has the actors play their own musical instruments, a daring move which actually helps underline the characters' feelings. The story is blessedly simple as it revolves around perennial bachelor Bobby, as he turns 35 and observes his circle of upscale Manhattanite friends, five married couples at different stages in various vignettes that make him reconsider what he wants out of life. Juggling three girlfriends, Bobby is a likeable but elliptical figure with commitment issues, and the story really follows his journey toward self-acceptance. There is an element of contrivance to the structure, but what I thought would be a severely dated libretto by George Furth continues to resonate with wit and insight.
For a canon as legendary and often erratic as his, Sondheim's sophisticated music and lyrics never seemed as accessible and hummable as they do here. So much of the show rides on the crucial casting of Bobby, and Raúl Esparza is terrifically bold and poignant in managing the precarious balance between yearning romantic and cynical hedonist. With a beautifully expressive singing voice coupled with a common-guy demeanor, he captures the character's arc with an escalating emotional intensity from the measured romanticism of "Someone Is Waiting" to the tender tentativeness of "Marry Me a Little" (with the beautiful, Sondheim-trademarked rolling piano) to the bursting climactic catharsis of "Being Alive".
The rest of the cast accomplish wonderful moments that already come with high expectations - Heather Laws' dexterously motors her way through "Getting Married Today" with her character's nerve-wracking intensity intact; Elizabeth Stanley brings a likable warmth to the dim-bulb flight attendant April as she duets sweetly with Esparza on the comically post-coital "Barcelona"; Angel Desai's saucy turn as hip Marta on "Another Hundred People"; the poignant "Sorry-Grateful" performed by the comparatively less spotlighted male ensemble; and of course, there are the lacerating observations in "The Ladies Who Lunch", handled with fierce worldliness by Barbara Walsh as Joanne. In the intimidating shadow of Elaine Stritch, Walsh lets out repeated primal screams at the end that pierce with wounding acuity.
TV director Lonny Price does a fluent job transferring the production to the small screen with minimum fuss. The 2008 DVD contains three terrific extras. First, there is a fifteen-minute interview with an articulate and thoughtful Esparza who discusses his connection with Bobby, the challenge of learning piano, and the alternating joy and pressure of working with Sondheim (for the third time). There is also a nine-minute interview with the erudite Doyle who explains how his unique use of actors as musicians went over with Sondheim. The centerpiece has to be a fascinating, 38-minute interview that Australian TV personality Jonathan Biggins conducted with Sondheim last year in Sydney's Theatre Royal. Sondheim is particularly forthcoming with humorous anecdotes about working with the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Ethel Merman, Barbra Streisand, and his mentor Oscar Hammerstein II during his long, illustrious career. This is a wonderful DVD for any Broadway aficionado and particularly for fans of Sondheim, Esparza and Doyle. I happen to be all three."
Captures the show Beautifully
M.D.S | Fayetteville, NY | 03/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw the show twice on Broadway and watched it on PBS. The PBS production is wonderfully directed and captures the feel of the show beautifully. The close ups on Raul Esparza show off his wonderful performance and shows that he SHOULD have won the Tony award. The show is feels fresh and new and is still relevant today. The cast is strong, especially Barbara Walsh and Keith Buterbaugh.
It is an excellent show and this DVD will be an excellent memory for those who saw the production on stage and for those who missed out."
In good "Company."
Gibby | USA | 05/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw the original on Broadway way back in 1970, and the memory of that wonderful production was still on my mind as I saw this latest version on PBS earier this year. I was astounded. It was as fresh and wonderful as the original, but in a totally original way. Mr. Esparza is the best Bobby of the bunch and the rest of the cast is simply wonderful. Nobody does it better than Sondheim, that's for sure; this score sounds as original today as it did in 1970. The only drawback, and this is just for those of us who remember the original Joanne (that perfect freak of talent, Elaine Stritch) will never be equaled. That aside, this DVD is a must for those who love theatre, musicals and Sondheim. They've finally figured out how to film a live show without ruining the theatrical experience."
A decent version of COMPANY, but far from its greatest
Robert Markham | Chicago, IL USA | 09/12/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This new version of COMPANY is the first widely-available recording of the show, and that in and of itself holds a certain level of appeal. I always appreciate the opportunity to snatch up recordings of some of my favorite shows.
Sadly, this isn't my favorite version of COMPANY. While the staging is inventive in concept (to an extent... this was also done with the revival of SWEENEY TODD), this isn't the lively, fun version that I grew to love. The set is sparse and cold, and a lot of the portrayals carry the same aura.
And despite all the acclaim, I just don't like Raul Esparza. For a guy who's supposed to be nice and fun, but emotionally shut off, he's far too internalized and far too intense. It's an oddly misguided performance, and it feels quite inappropriate given all the things we hear about his character.