Cinespastic: Being Alive
This April, the New York Philharmonic staged a concert version of Stephen Sondheim’s great 1970 musical Company that was recorded and is currently being shown in movie theaters across the country. Next week there are two final screenings, on June 19 and 21. If you’ve never seen Company now is your chance.
I love Sondheim, the man is tops in my musical theater book. No one writes lyrics like Sondheim and Company is one of his best. It won six Tony awards in 1970, including Best New Musical (it also won Best Revival of a Musical in 2006).
More than telling a linear story, the musical focuses on the character of Bobby on and around his 35th birthday and his various married friends and the women he dates. It is mostly told through vignettes with the various characters as Bobby slowly comes to the realization that being an avowed bachelor may not be the life for him. It contains two of Sondheim’s most beloved songs, the knockouts The Ladies Who Lunch and Being Alive, and the hilarious Getting Married Today.
Stage icon Elaine Stritch has owned The Ladies Who Lunch since she originated the role of Joann. If you want to watch a great video, look up Elaine Stritch in studio recording the song, it’s crazy amazing.
Company is a musical for adults about adults, it’s about relationships and their complications, what it means to be with someone, what it means to be in love and what it means to be alone. It doesn’t paint the happy-go-lucky portrait of love that most musicals do, instead it shows the areas of grey that are the reality of life and relationships.
The Company on screen now stays true to the original, set in the late 60s/early 70s, and stars Neil Patrick Harris, Jon Cryer, Stephen Colbert, Patti LuPone and Christina Hendricks. LuPone and Hendricks shine the most in this lively concert version of the show.
While this version is certainly worth your time, even more, I recommend getting your hands on the PBS Great Performances taping of the 2006 Broadway revival. This is the Company you should see. It sets the show on a bare stage with the actors dressed in all black, in a timeless setting, and the orchestra being the actors themselves. It brings forth all of the underlying tones of the show by keeping it simple, stripped-down and intimate, while firmly grounding it in a place that does not seem dated, which the show (and the version at the movie theater now) often can slightly feel like.
But no matter if you rent this version or go see it at the movies now, see Company, and if you can get to a live production of it, don’t miss it.
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