Stephen Sondheim fans rejoice! Over a year since the New York Philharmonic Orchestra revived Company for a weekend, the sensational concert performance starring Anika Noni Rose, Christina Hendricks, Craig Bierko, Jon Cryer, Martha Plimpton, Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, and Stephen Colbert is finally released on Blu-ray (and DVD). The musical tells the story of perpetually 35-year-old Bobby in a series of vignettes that show his interactions with his married friends and various girlfriends as he explores “the challenge of maintaining relationships in an increasingly depersonalized society.” A theme that Sondheim found important to examine in 1970 and that audiences still find important today.
Sondheim veteran Neil Patrick Harris, used to playing the womanizing louse Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, easily injects humanity into the confirmed bachelor Bobby. His affable chemistry with the cast and his charisma with the audience (not to mention his beautiful tenor voice) make him an ideal choice for the role. He brings new levels of understanding to the character, as does Sondheim diva Patti LuPone—who undoubtedly landed the role of Joanne after singing the character’s iconic song “The Ladies Who Lunch” at Sondheim’s Birthday Concert the previous year. Only a skilled stage performer of her caliber could bring new life and meaning to a song that’s so familiar to audiences. Other long-time Sondheim collaborators include Paul Gemignani conducting the orchestra and Lonny Price producing and directing this performance, making this production a truly magical one.
The rest of this all-star cast does some their best as well. Martha Plimpton brings her usual comedic gold to the role of Sarah. Stephen Colbert is surprisingly decent opposite her, as husband Harry, and manages to almost carry a tune during “Sorry, Grateful.” Craig Bierko is blessedly toned down as the bisexual Peter, and Jill Paice’s southern accent affectation for his wife Susan is less grating than in other revivals. John Cryer and Jennifer Laura Thomspon are equally funny as David and Jenny in their pot-smoking scene. Katie Finneran tones down the tramp (see: Promises, Promises; Annie) to play melodramatic—and crazy—Amy; and Aaron Lazar brings the necessary charm as her soon-to-be husband. Jim Walton rounds out the couples as Joanne’s third husband, Larry, holding his own with LuPone. Not only are all these actors superb on their own (and in their respective pairings) but also as a full ensemble. It’s no wonder they get a round of applause during the climactic dance routine of “Side by Side by Side.”
The near-perfect casting continues with Bobby’s three girlfriends in the show. Christina Hendricks, as naïve April, does a masterful job with her second act monologue. Anika Noni Rose makes eccentric Marta a charming girlfriend. And even Chryssie Whitehead’s sex dream dance sequence “Tick-Tock” proves to be an entertaining number (as opposed to being a baffling segment like it usually is). As great as they are on their own, their song “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” is superb.
Because of the vignette style of the show, adapting Company into a musical film would be difficult. But as a concert performance, this musical translates onto DVD easily, making it available to watch over and over again with relish. Of course, the eerie thing about these concert performances is that you can see the orchestra (and additional vocalists) in the background watching the actors on stage. A similar effect can be found in the 2006 Broadway revival (also available on Blu-ray and DVD), but in that case the orchestra was also the show’s cast, so it felt more intimate being able to see the characters watch each other.
The trend in filming musicals (especially these concert performances) is a great opportunity to bring these shows to audiences across the nation—pleasing not only theater nerds but also those who would never have a chance to make it to these exclusive performances. Also, Fathom Events is doing their best to bring current Broadway shows and Metropolitan operas to theaters throughout the country (Company had its own brief debut in movie theaters last summer). These attempts to revive the American musical are slowly having their effect on our culture. And there is no one better to represent the American musical than one of the greatest men in the theater industry, Stephen Sondheim. His musicals continue to be revived on Broadway and across the nation, finding relevance in contemporary audiences. And even 40 years after it’s Broadway opening, Company remains a compelling and emotionally devastating piece of theatre.
There are no special features.
"Stephen Sondheim's Company" is on sale November 13, 2012 and is not rated. Musical, Theater. Directed by Lonny Price. Written by Stephen Sondheim, George Furth. Starring Aaron Lazar, Anika Noni Rose, Christina Hendricks, Chryssie Whitehead, Craig Bierko, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Jill Paice, Jim Walton, Jon Cryer, Katie Finneran, Martha Plimpton, Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, Stephen Colbert.