PBS is presenting Sondheim’s Company as part of the Great Performances series tonight (currently right now, actually). I really like Company (you can catch me humming “Being Alive” to myself if you sneak up), but I find myself comparing these folks to the original cast. Raul Esparza is wonderful, but he’s no Larry Kert. Heather Laws just can’t keep up with Sondheim’s lyrics in “Not Getting Married” anywhere near as well as Beth Howland (starting about 2 minutes in) or especially Madeline Kahn (in a concert performance) did. And Barbara Walsh’s Joanne just doesn’t have as much control of her “lush voice” as Elaine Stritch did in “The Ladies Who Lunch”.
But, ya know, it’s Sondheim! And the show is still GOOD…I’m not saying this cast is lousy, just that I kind of unfairly have the originals stuck in my head while listening to them. They do a creditable job…especially Esparza.
So what did you folks who watched it think (it’s ending now (Esparza is singing “Being Alive” at this moment))?
Loved it! Then again, I’ll love anything to do with COMPANY (except for that horrid London revival a few years back. The Bobby sounded exactly like Kermit the Frog.)
I watched it in HD and I have to say it was gorgeous! It felt like I was back in the front row again. (I’ve seen the Doyle/Esparza production twice, both times from front row center.)
I loved all of the close-ups that are possible to do in film that go by unnoticed on stage. Raul’s expression at the end of “Side By Side/What Would We Do Without You?” just killed me. I had never noticed it before.
This isn’t my favorite version of COMPANY but I did admire it a lot. My favorite production I’ve seen would be a regional version that was done in Seattle in 2006. That production had amazing singers, a full 21 piece orchestra, the original staging complete with elevator - it was heaven. And while I’m not completely on board with Doyle’s actor-as-musician concept, I feel it worked much better for COMPANY than it did for SWEENEY TODD. Having each couple accompany their respective partner with their instrument was a genius move, as was Bobby only playing the piano at the finale.
I still feel mostly the same about each respective performer as I did when I saw the show. Heather Laws, while performing a monstrous verbal feat with “Getting Married Today,” sings so fast that a lot of the humor is lost unless you already know the song word for word. Barbara Walsh’s pronunciation of ROOOYSE! still grates on me, but she gives such a strong performance in every other way that I can let it go. Raul? Love him! Again, not my favorite Bobby (tops in that role would be Hugh Panaro and Dean Jones) but he does a wonderful job and I still think he should have won the Tony.
Did you catch the interview with Sondheim afterwards? I had not seen it before and it confirmed several things that I had always thought about the show. (How the whole thing really takes place in Bobby’s head within a timespan of a few seconds, etc.)