I’m a wee bit of a Stephen Sondheim aficionado, by which I mean, if you know the Forbidden Broadway revue, well, in the satirical version of Sondheim’s “Unworthy of Your Love” (“Forbidden Assassins”), the lyric “you are every lunatic’s god” was, I am sure, written about me. (And I cannot sing his minor thirds, either.)
So, naturally, I was all over the staged performance of Company, with Paul Gemignani and the New York Philharmonic backing Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, Martha Plimpton, Stephen Colbert, Jon Cryer, Christina Hendricks et al, playing (I believe) four dates at selected cinemas. You may have seen the cast perform “Side by Side by Side” on the Tony Awards broadcast. I didn’t, because a Home Depot delivery truck took out my cable. Not that I’m bitter.
You know, it used to be easier to be a musical theatre buff before I knew folks like my friend Joseph and NOW Magazine critic Glenn Sumi who not only know craploads about music and theatre but are Sondheim fans as well. I learn more now, but I’m not sure the humility suits me. Oh well. For now, at least, I still know more than R; it just doesn’t seem that exceptional anymore that I caught the Sound of Music parody in the Book of Mormon‘s “I Believe.” But I digress.
Back in 1970 Company was considered radical. The book isn’t linear, the themes are non-traditional, the subject matter includes pot and gay sex. Even the straight stuff would have been risqué; an overt seduction scene only two years after Hair‘s Broadway debut was, I’m sure, pushing the envelope. Now it seems tame and rather dated, and I kept having to remind myself to think 1970.
Even that excuse doesn’t explain some of the book’s strange, awkward moments. At one point, Bobby (NPH) and Joanne (LuPone) are having an exchange in a disco, only she just looks at him, and he babbles on. It’s like the librettist couldn’t think of anything interesting for Joanne to say and inserted a stage direction for cryptic looks.
The music holds up well, of course, because it’s Sondheim. But it’s less dated than even some Sondheim compositions from later years (think of the disco-fied, almost “Copacabana”-esque bits in “Putting It Together”) and has five songs that rank as top-tier: “Another Hundred People,” “Getting Married Today,” “Side by Side by Side,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” and my personal favourite, “Being Alive.” Lovely to hear/see on the big screen with Paul Gemignani conducting (my pathetically geeky reaction being, “Wow, it’s THE Paul Gemignani”).
As for the singing, as Glenn pointed out, the most wobbly compensated with acting. Hendricks was charming, Colbert suited his role, and Plimpton had great comic timing.
I can’t provide an objective review of Neil Patrick Harris’ performance because he’s NPH and I’m in love with him, of course, or of Patti LuPone’s because I worship her. Why? Well, not that she sings the song in Company, but have a listen to Patti singing “Being Alive” and you might get it.
Postscript! R bought me the DVD of the Company revival on which this performance was based, which won the Tory for best revival a few years ago. Yay! Way to earn brownie points, darlin’.