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(May 20, 2008)
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Winner of the 2007 Tony Award®!
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 its 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.
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Still, after a few acts you learn to ignore the staging until it's thrown back in your face, and you can appreciate the fine acting and singing in this production. Barbara Walsh's Joanne is a bit too much a copy of Elaine Stritch in her version of "The Ladies Who Lunch" but I suppose that's the curse of that role, Stritch having pretty much defined it for anyone who follows. Overall it's a solid B+/A- show, and I have to admit I find myself watching it again every time PBS reruns it.
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.
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.