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4.4 out of 5 stars
Company: A Musical Comedy
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: 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 (Neil Patrick Harris) 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
Format: 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2009
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
I originally rented this Blu-ray from Blockbuster. I liked it so much I watched it a second time and then bought a copy for myself. I finally got around to watching my own copy recently and learned to my dismay that its publisher, Image Entertainment, misrepresented its video resolution as being 1080p when it was actually only 1080i. Don't get me wrong, this disc is still very much high definition and looks good but not as good as it would have if it had been mastered at 1080p.

With that bit of technical crankiness out of the way, let me say that this filmed performance was actually played live on Broadway. The production won the 2007 Tony Award for Best Musical; the show's star, Raul Esparza, won the Best Actor in a Musical Tony for his terrific performance as Bobby. Highest marks go to to both the performers and Stephen Sondheim's wonderful old warhorse, Company.

Highly recommended. The only reason I give it 4 Stars instead of 5 is that its video resolution is not quite what I have come to expect from the typical Blu-ray disc. Nevertheless, you can't go wrong here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2011
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
When I think Sondheim I think "Company". Having seen various productions over the years including the original transfer from Broadway to the West End, I decided to pick my overall favorite "Company" by the actor paying the lead role of Bobby. This accolade definitely goes to Raul Esparza. The DVD is a reminder of this production I was so fortunate to catch on Broadway, and his rendition of "Being Alive" and the way it was staged, was one of the most thrilling closing of a show I have ever seen. It is difficult to recapture this on a DVD, hence only 4 stars, but for those that want to hold this mesmerizing magical moment for ever ... this "Company" is a MUST !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 4, 2008
Format: DVD
I have never seen this show performed live, but I wore out the original cast recording on vinyl and CD. I missed the full orchestrations, but having the cast play instruments was fun and worked well most of the time. I also thought Raul Esparza gave a very intriguing performance. My guess is it was a bit darker than Dean Jones or Larry Kert. Being Alive did not work for me - too screamy, as was Ladies Who Lunch. All in all, I prefer the performance of Company in my head, with Dean Jones and Elaine Stritch. I do think some of the dialogue is a bit stilted, but those songs - it doesn't get much better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2012
Format: Amazon Instant Video
If you like Sondheim you will like this. This version is very sophisticated and well performed. There is not a character I did not enjoy. I have never seen the actors singing and playing the instruments but I found it fascinating and not at all distracting. I would give it 5 stars but I never give 5 stars unless perfect. This is close.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
I love Sondheim, and I cannot imagine not viewing anything I can get my hands on. I liked the new Company. I'd heard a story on NPR explaining that all of the actors would carry and play instruments in lieu of an orchestra. Often, It was too much, and it felt like a way to cut costs rather than be creative. It greatly slowed down "you can drive a person crazy", as those poor women were expected to play and sing the difficult, fast song. However, it made "Sorry-Grateful" very intimate and touching.

Finally, I'm not sure about Bobby. Well, I'm pretty sure I was disappointed. I'm not sure if it was Raul Esparza who played Bobby, or John Doyle who directed Bobby. Either way, Bobby was this soul searching, intense, kinda downer guy through the whole musical. At the beginning, he is suppose to take his friends kids to the zoo, the women to the Opera (and like it), he sleeps around without apologizes, and he knows where to score if you want a bit of something-something for a party. In other words, Bobby was supposed to be the life of the party until his epiphany that he wanted to grow up and get married, have a family. Since he was already intense, there was no where to go.

Still, watch it, especially it you haven't seen it before. It isn't done often, and it might a long time before you get a chance to see it live.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
The wonderful musical by Steven Sondheim.(COMPANY)
I missed it the first time around; don't know how,
but it is wonderful. It's so good that I've bought several
additional copies and given them to others to enjoy.
The music is amazing. As I say, how did I miss this when
it first appeared.?
Thank you Steven Sondheim for your creative genius.
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on September 19, 2009
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This is an excellent disc, with a couple of flaws.

I think the absence of subtitles is particularly important here, because the singers' diction, while very good, is not as absolutely clear as it might be, or as it is on the original cast recording of COMPANY. And of course Sondheim's lyrics are tricky enough that at some point almost everyone is going to need subtitles to follow them.

Another reviewer has already mentioned a certain overintensity in the lead performer. I didn't notice that, but the singer who does "The Ladies Who Lunch" is overintense indeed. This is her decision, and the song is so famous for its mordancy that I can hardly blame her for overplaying its bitterness, but I think a touch of humor would have made the song better, and that finally it collapses under the extreme self-importance she imparts to it.

If the other critic and I are both right, this entire production suffers a little from its exaggerated seriousness.
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on December 27, 2013
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
I love when PBS records these shows. I'm not a fan of the cast playing the instruments. It breaks the 4th wall too much.
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