Company (A Musical Comedy)

Original Broadway Cast Recording

1970/1998: Sony/Columbia/Legacy SK 65283

  1. Company
  2. The Little Things You Do Together
  3. Sorry-Grateful
  4. You Could Drive a Person Crazy
  5. Have I Got a Girl for You
  6. Someone is Waiting
  7. Another Hundred People
  8. Getting Married Today
  9. Side by Side by Side
    What Would We Do Without You?
  10. Poor Baby
  11. Tick-Tock
  12. Barcelona
  13. The Ladies Who Lunch
  14. Being Alive
  15. Finale
  16. Being Alive [Larry Kert version]

Of all the outlandishly naïve (if genuine) things I’ve said to other people in my life, the one that’s stuck most in my craw is that “‘Company’ is proof that Sondheim can make mistakes.” Especially because I said it (in 1988, I think) to a musical-theatre actor I was besotten with and trying to impress over an awkwardly groundless lunch I’d arranged….

The aforementioned actor reacted with appropriately aghast silence and polite disagreement, and the lunch finished bleakly at best, but what I *meant* by my statement still stands, even though the extreme wording overpowered it: “Company” as a play and as a score is terribly imperfect, even though it does have some mighty strong and fine musical numbers. The script is flimsy in that it’s so predictable and so small in scope, and the score suffers dreadfully from sluggishly maudlin songs such as “Sorry/Grateful” and “Someone Is Waiting” (and “Barcelona,” which is a fine little scene that’s dragged out far too long and far too slowly as a song).

But then there’s the good stuff, which is to say MOST of the musical’s songs. The songs I described above as “sluggishly maudlin” are lame even in the context of the play, whereas “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” stands beautifully on its own, as do “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “The Little Things You Do Together,” “Getting Married Today,” and “Another Hundred People.” The latter song is very good on the remastered CD but can be best appreciated after seeing the footage of its recording session in the D A Pennebaker documentary of the show’s Original Cast Recording: when you’ve heard the song from the perspective of the orchestration’s rich heavy sad sound, as the documentary showcases the dark string parts, this recording (and the song itself) gains a new poignancy…and its lyrics are almost surgically precise, which is also true of “The Ladies Who Lunch.”

Still, the show’s overall message—if you’re not married, you’re missing out—was iffy at the time it debuted and doesn’t hold much water nowadays. But even when it was relevant it wasn’t very compelling, in retrospect…“get married so you have someone to fight with or loathe or foil or whatever” is cynical no matter what.

A final note: I thought Dean Jones was an atrocious choice for the show’s focal character, and I loathed, I mean LOATHED, his delivery of “Being Alive” on this album, a recording which dragged and wailed and suffered irreparably from that drawn-out maudlin treatment. And then the CD got reissued in the 1990s, with a nice commentary-laden booklet and a recording of “Being Alive” featuring Larry Kert, Jones’s understudy who took on the role shortly after the show opened, and I thought “ah, NOW I will hear the song done well,” especially as Kert was described in the CD booklet as “a Sondheim veteran.”

Instead I found another slow and dreadful performance, and I would have forever written off the song as hopeless if it weren’t for two things: first, the song is mighty and beautiful as written, and I’ve seen that from the beginning; second, Barbra Streisand almost delivered it on her Broadway Album (she stretched out too many phrases at too great length, but otherwise it was a stellar rendition). Because I know the song is capable of achieving its greatness, I love it despite its presentations to date.