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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful DVD Extras Complement a Sparkling Update of Sondheim's Most Accessible Musical
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...
Published on May 22, 2008 by Ed Uyeshima

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great music, poor staging
Great music, poor staging. I've seen many better versions. They just are aren't on DVD. Raul Esparza is good, but I am still looking for a Neil Patrick Harris version.
Published 9 months ago by scottca075


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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful DVD Extras Complement a Sparkling Update of Sondheim's Most Accessible Musical, May 22, 2008
This review is from: Company: A Musical Comedy (DVD)
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.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful production, get it for Raul Esparza, May 21, 2008
By 
qmechanic (New Haven, CT) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Company: A Musical Comedy (DVD)
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.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In good "Company.", May 25, 2008
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This review is from: Company: A Musical Comedy (DVD)
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.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Company worth keeping, March 22, 2008
By 
Michael Reitter (Outside Philly, PA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Company: A Musical Comedy (DVD)
Aside from seeing the production live on stage (I agree with other reviewers, Raul should have won the Tony for this performance), I've seen this video production. Not only on PBS, where the quality was so-so, but a copy of this disc. It's not out yet officially, but it's out already. The quality of the picture is far superior to that shown on television, and the production itself is very exciting and innovative. This is definitely one show you'd want to add to your collection.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even Better Company, November 16, 2009
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This review is from: Company: A Musical Comedy (DVD)
"Company" was the first Sondheim musical I saw on stage in London's West End. It was the
beginning of a life-long love. The man is - without hyperbole - a genius. And this production
of "Company" proves it. Who would have thought that anyone could improve upon the original
staging? But in almost every way, this digs deeper and mines the psychological truths embedded
in a work that shows that this "musical comedy", like Shakespeare's comedies, to touch profound
depths. Unequivocally recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Bobby.....Bobby.....Bobby Baby.....Bobby Bubbe.....Robert Darling.....", March 9, 2014
This review is from: Company: A Musical Comedy (DVD)
This is the 2007 version of Stephen Sondheim's 1970 musical COMPANY (specifically COMPANY: A MUSICAL COMEDY) starring Raul Esparza, who has since taken up residence as the new A.D.A. on TV's LAW AND ORDER: SVU. Here he plays the central character, 35-year-old unmarried Bobby, friend and pet to five separate married couples. The wives want to get him married off, the husbands warn against it, Bobby chases away several prospects and tries to settle on one, all the while wondering whether marriage is worth it.

This version has all the Sondheim songs that have grown into classics over the years, including "Another Hundred People," "Barcelona," "Sorry-Grateful" and of course the ever-fierce "Ladies Who Lunch." Other than Esparza, the cast members are not well-known names. We are told that this is the version that played for a year on Broadway and this TV edition was originally presented on the long-running "American Masters" series for Public TV.

Most people are bound to ask: Which is better, this version or the 2011 version with Neil Patrick Harris? Well, this version proceeded flawlessly enough, but it did not have quite the "oomph" of the Neil Patrick Harris version, possibly because it lacks the celebrity power. It also runs close to fifteen minutes shorter than the 2011 version, suggesting that some of the more New York-specific dialog was eliminated. (The cast members in this version wear stylish but black costumes, suggesting present-day action, while the 2011 version used period end-of-Sixties getup and no attempt to update the material.) Here, the action is restricted to a tiny square floor of a stage that would draw apologies as a disco dance floor or the setting for dinner theater. A peculiarity is that there is no orchestra; the cast play the minimal number of instruments necessary right there on the tiny stage, and as you may expect, the music is often pretty awful. Sometimes, so awful it seems meant as a joke, or perhaps there was no other way to take it. This version was directed and edited flawlessly, and Esparza is by far the strongest thing in it. Of the two versions neither is perfect, and even though I would give a slight edge to the 2011 (NPH) version because it is not ashamed to play it as a period piece, the DVD for this version includes a lengthy Australian interview with composer Stephen Sondheim, which must be considered a plus.

Company (Stephen Sondheim).
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rich multi-layered performances win out, July 3, 2008
This review is from: Company: A Musical Comedy (DVD)
The expressions on Raul Esparza's face detail the rumblings beneath the surface that Stephen Sondheim finds fascinating.

This 2006 Tony-winning revival received a mixed response from audiences and critics alike. But then, COMPANY is a show that is always divisive. For starters, the show has no "plot" in a conventional sense. That bothers some viewers. It also uses songs to express attitudes rather than advance the story (again, what story?) But those subtle lingering looks, the unexpected responses, the sighs, the pauses...they communicate so much about these characters, and that is beautifully captured in this video.

No, it is not the COMPANY that was seen on Broadway in 1970. Given the advances it presaged, I expect that to see an archival reconstruction of the original might now look horribly dated. Jonathan Doyle has given the show a fresh perspective by having the company of actors double as musicians. It's a stunt he tried before with SWEENEY TODD to much acclaim. Unfortunately, coming after SWEENEY critics tended to be very blaze about the whole thing. Yeah, What else can you do?

But the concept actually works better with Company and is far less distracting. You do not miss the full orchestra as much here as with the more operatic SWEENEY. It makes the story more intimate and personal. The concept has a few drawbacks. Several times numbers end by segueing back into dialogue, frustrating an audience that wants to applaud but keeping the rhythm steady.

The rock steady performance of Raul Esparza anchors the entire show. It's performance that earned him high praise - and a Tony nomination - and years from now people will talk about. But unlike Dean Jones in the original they'll be able to do more than talk about it: they can see it thanks to this DVD.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING!, March 30, 2008
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This review is from: Company: A Musical Comedy (DVD)
Unfortunately, I was not able to see the live production in New York, but I can only imagine how amazing it must have been just watching the recording. Raul Esparza (yes, the one deserving the Tony) has the amazing gift of being able to stand absolutely still, and still draw you in sheerly by the emotion and power in his voice. The entire cast performed extraordinarily; when you're not marveling at their singing performances, you're marveling at how in the world someone can walk around, play an instrument (or in some cases, several instruments) and still manage to sing at the same time. Although this format (having actors playing instruments with minimal staging/set) probably won't work for many musicals, I found it very well done/used in this production. Altogether, thoroughly awesome :)
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captures the show Beautifully, March 14, 2008
By 
M.D.S (Fayetteville, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Company: A Musical Comedy (DVD)
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant performance of brilliant, sophisticated musical theater, October 20, 2008
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This review is from: Company: A Musical Comedy (DVD)
"Company" is musical theater for a sophisticated audience - filled with the bitingly clever lyrics and musical complexity that typify the best of Sondheim. "Company" consists of a series of vignettes exploring the nature of relationships seen through the eyes of 35 year old, single Bobby - and the truthfulness expressed will certainly resonate with people of a similar age.

The production is striking with director John Doyle employing his trademark schtick of the performers singing, acting, AND performing the music (for another example of this you should listen to the excellent Sweeney Todd (2005 Broadway Revival Cast)). Raul Esparza as Bobby leads an incredibly talented cast.

The extras are excellent and consist of:
- A lengthy interview with Sondheim
- A revealing interview with Raul Esparza
- Interview with Director John Doyle
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Company [Blu-ray]
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