Called a "monumental achievement" by the Los Angeles Times, Company is the extraordinary documentary capturing the explosive recording session for Stephen Sondheim?s landmark musical. On May 3, 1970, just a few days after... more » its triumphant Broadway opening,« less
"If you care about musical theatre, then you will want to see this 1-hour condesation of the 18 1/2 hour recording session that yielded the original cast album of COMPANY.This documentary will give you an idea of how much sweat goes into making these albums... usually done in one long day in a cramped recording studio. Once you see this documentary, you'll listen to the album in a totally different way. Watch Sondheim coach the singers: correct their pronunciations, or even correct notes they have changed over the weeks of performances. Best of all watch Elaine Stritch struggle to record "The Ladies Who Lunch" until exhaustion gets the better of her and she starts screaming back at her own playback. And yet ... and yet the final result is worth it! No other cast album documentary captures as much as this one.A must for those who know that cast albums are NOT "soundtracks!""
Great fun, but too short
John Grabowski | USA | 05/04/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What a great idea: record the cast album for Stephen Sondheim's "Company" live, as it were--no overdubs, no artificial mixdown. What a great idea: get a documentary crew to record the record session. The filmmaker caught 15-and-a-half hours of bleary-eyed cast members giving their all for a tough record producer and an even tougher composer/lyricist. (It had to be one marathon session because it would be too expensive to assemble all those singers and musicians for multiple sessions.) This is a great documentary that shows how hard it all is. If you've only seen her on the incipid show "Alice," you'll have no idea how talented Beth Howland is till you see her in "Getting Married Today." Donna McKechnie, Susan Browning, and Pamela Myers spoof Rogers and Hart (and not the Andrew Sisters as everyone seems to think) with verve in "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," which also finds Sondheim at his most clever. Charles Kimbrough would go on to do Murphy Brown and Barbara Barrie would briefly be in Barney Miller, and both shine here as effortless, "natural" actors. Star Dean Jones is perfect as the slightly dopey Bobby, even if some of his singing will make you wince. What's perhaps most remarkable is that the numbers that sound so fresh and improvisational actually took 8, 10, 15 takes. Especially "The Ladies Who Lunch." Elaine Stritch's famous song was the last number they recorded. By the time they were ready, it was after four in the morning and everyone was exhausted. Stritch tries, but after about eight takes it's clear she's not going to make it that night. With everyone getting punchy, they decide to record her music track separately, bringing her back the next day to knock the song out of the park.The DVD has a commentary track, as Stritch, Hal Prince and the filmmaker reminisce about the session 30 years later. There's also a strange feature where one of the songs not covered in the doc can be listened to over B&W stills from the theatrical production. This didn't do anything for me, but there's no harm in having it there, either.So this is a very good documentary. But it could have been even better. Two of the most complex and interesting songs, the opening number and "Side By Side/What Would We Do Without You," are barely covered in the film. I really wanted to see how they pulled off these extraordinarily complex numbers with the complete cast "live," but the documentary doesn't show it. Too bad. A 90 minute documentary with this material would hae been so much better than a 60 minute documentary without. It's probably true the 60 minute limit was imposed by ABC, which originally aired the documentary, but I'd be surprised if the filmmaker didn't save material that could have been added back for this DVD.Still, this is worth owning, if a little pricey for a 53 minute CD (not 58, as advertised on the case). In some ways this musical is a classic, and in others it's incredibly (and amusingly) dated. Both qualities just make it all the more wonderful."
The Little Ways They Tried Together Made History
R. J. WALKER | 08/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is a valuable piece of Broadway history, as it documents the process involved in recording one of the landmark cast albums of all time, "Company". It is interesting to see the mechanics involved, naturally, but what sticks with you is the determination of these tired actors (they recorded on the Sunday after opening night, their day off) to get a permanent record of this brilliant, groundbreaking musical. It's fun to watch them subtly interact as if on stage.
It's also touching to see these actors as they looked thirty-four years ago-- Barbara Barrie before her harrowing cancer battle, Beth Howland and Charles Kimbrough before sitcom fame, Elaine Stritch before England, marriage, widowhood, and beating alcoholism. The intriguing backstage story of lead actor Dean Jones' impending departure from the show is still moving; his misery over a crumbling marriage back in California led to a deal with director Harold Prince to bring the show into New York-- then to leave the role to Larry Kert.
Certainly there are some wonderful performances captured here (Dean Jones, Teri Ralston's silvery vocals, Beth Howland's hysterical patter song, Pamela Myer's run through of what may be the greatest song written about New York, "Another Hundred People"). But the centerpiece is indeed Elaine Stritch's struggle to get a good track down of what she has called her "three-act play", "The Ladies Who Lunch". On that memorable first night, her fatigue gets the better of her and nuance gives way to angry shouting. Her eyes, wide and wild with exhaustion, tell volumes. Her quiet, dignified exit to get rest while the orchestra records the backing track is pure theatre. And her triumphant return to the studio to nail the perfect take (indeed, the film documents the take that actually made the album) thrills. She must have known this would be "the one", as she made sure her hair was done and her makeup perfect (down to full false eyelashes)-- she looks beautiful and sounds spectacular. Stritch's present-day commentary protests that she had a matinee later that day, hence the full stage face. Whatever the reason, her tough-as-nails beauty shines.
The DVD's extras add a fun commentary (by Pennebaker, Hal Prince and a typically feisty Stritch) and photos from the original production-- I wish they had added more!
This is very much worth it if you are a student of theatre history or of theatre music."
A window into a frequently unseen aspect of theatre.
Matthew Murray | New York City, NY USA | 02/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Nearly every aspect of theatre has been written about and documented extensively, yet the production of cast recordings has sadly received short shrift.Though this documentary following the recording of the original cast recording of Stephen Sondheim's musical Company is over thirty years old, it still feels fresh and important. While you shouldn't buy this expecting to hear all the great tunes from the show (that's what the cast recording itself is for), if you want the inside story on how it was put together--filled with as much humor, drama, and tension as a play itself--then you have to check this out. Though the most thrilling (and harrowing) segment deals with Elaine Stritch's struggle with her big solo, "The Ladies Who Lunch," this recording grips the imagination and is a vital historical record of a fascinating and important musical from the 1970s.If you love theatre, particularly musicals, this should be required viewing."
A Moment in Time
Gerard C. Klug | Las Vegas, NV USA | 09/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For anyone who is a fan of musical theater or Sondheim in particular, this is a stunningly brilliant slice of that world, and a must-buy. Seeing a young Sondheim interact with and coach the singers during the recording session is worth the price by itself. But you'll also enjoy the wonderful Elaine Stritch peform and struggle with 'Ladies who Lunch', along with Dean Jones, Donna McKechnie in her prime, and the rest of the brilliant cast. I saw 'Company' four times, and this brought those experiences all back."