Company (A Musical Comedy)
Original Broadway Cast Recording
1970/1998: Sony/Columbia/Legacy SK 65283
Of all the outlandishly naïve (if genuine) things Ive said to other people in my life, the one thats 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 Id 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 its 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 thats dragged out far too long and far too slowly as a song).
But then theres the good stuff, which is to say MOST of the musicals 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 shows Original Cast Recording: when youve heard the song from the perspective of the orchestrations 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 shows overall messageif youre not married, youre missing outwas iffy at the time it debuted and doesnt hold much water nowadays. But even when it was relevant it wasnt 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 shows 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, Joness 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 werent for two things: first, the song is mighty and beautiful as written, and Ive 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.
Comments © 2005 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.