- Stephen Sondheim’s Company New York Philharmonic by John Eaton
This concert performance of Sondheim’s Company at Lincoln Center on April 7–9, 2011, was filmed for Fathom Events and then released on DVD on November 13, 2012. While this may not be the definitive version of the musical, especially for those who saw the 2007 Broadway performance with Raul Esparza, it is ideal for those Sondheim buffs who long to see Neil Patrick Harris’s interpretation of the character of Bobby, or who are curious about some of the stunt casting (Stephen Colbert and Jon Cryer: funny actors with serviceable voices only; Christina Hendricks: wonderful in every way).
Lonny Price’s expertly-directed production made interesting and inventive use of the space, including some amusing bits in which actors broke the fourth (second?) wall to interact with the conductor Paul Gemignani behind them. The actors were wheeled around on couches to suggest different social configurations, and Neil Patrick Harris’s bachelor easy chair of the opening scene was symbolically transformed by the end of the concert to a loveseat for two, ready for a partner.
Martha Plimpton and Colbert had great theater chemistry as a bickering married couple, and there were a number of stand-out performances. Two-time Tony Award winner Katie Finneran was brilliantly funny as the panicking bride-to-be Amy in “Getting Married Today.” Chryssie White-head was both tender as Kathy, the one who got away, and sensational in the dance number “Tick-Tock,” which is often cut from productions, and which was given exciting choreography by Josh Rhodes. Anika Noni Rose brought a charismatic presence and clarion voice to the free-spirit character of Marta and Patti LuPone, as she had already demonstrated in Sondheim’s 80th- birthday concert in 2010, was born to sing “The Ladies Who Lunch.” She infused the bitter character of Joanne with an underlying pathos, her dripping sarcasm covering a tenderness toward both Bobby and her loving husband.
As Stephen Holden’s New York Times review pointed out (“A Bachelor, Five Couples, and All Their Tuneful Discontents,” New York Times, April 8, 2011), Company can feel a bit dated with its mentions of “hip” and “square,” but this performance embraced its origins with full 70s costumes and dialogue. This concept musical was groundbreaking in its time, with its series of comic and poignant vignettes illustrating the larger themes of the complexity of marriage and individual identity. It still resonates today, as in Neil Patrick Harris’s emotionally moving finale, “Being Alive.”