Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Stephen Sondheim, Raul Esparza, Barbara Walsh|
Company (2006 Broadway Revival Cast)
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks, Broadway & Vocalists
Maverick British director John Doyle, a 2006 Tony Award winner, enjoyed a surprise Broadway hit last year with his radical reworking of Sweeney Todd. He dispensed with the pit orchestra and handed all the instruments o... more »
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Maverick British director John Doyle, a 2006 Tony Award winner, enjoyed a surprise Broadway hit last year with his radical reworking of Sweeney Todd. He dispensed with the pit orchestra and handed all the instruments over to his on-stage performers, who doubled as musicians in between their turns acting and singing. Doyle has taken a similarly unorthodox approach to his revival of another Stephen Sondheim classic, the revered yet notoriously difficult to stage Company. As with Sweeney Todd, the results of this theatre-as-concert have entranced both critics and audiences. Linda Winer of Newsday called it "the very best revival that Broadway has ever seen of Stephen Sondheim's landmark 1970 musical."Variety described it as "striking, revelatory and thoroughly compelling." For Sondheim fans, the recorded score to Company has long been as much an object of adoration as the six-time Tony-winning play itself. Company on disc functions as a deeply moving song cycle, even apart from George Furth's libretto, about the vicissitudes of marriage and the joys and trials of the single life, seen through the eyes of the coolly dispassionate Manhattan bachelor Bobby on the occasion of his 35th birthday. This is truly the stuff of sex and the city - wry, sophisticated, painfully honest and deeply melancholy, even in a comic seducing-the-stewardess duet like "Barcelona." As with Sweeney Todd, which featured a bravura performance from lead actor Michael Cerveris, Doyle has found in rising star RaÃºl Esparza (Cabaret, Taboo, The Normal Heart) an extraordinary singer and actor who, in the words of the New York Times' Ben Brantley, gives Company "the most compelling center it has probably ever had." "Mr. Doyle and his invaluable music supervisor and orchestrator, Mary-Mitchell Campbell, have shaped Company into a sort of oratorio for the church of the lonely," says Brantley. He also praises the work of the entire ensemble - playing five married couples, three single women and one deeply ambivalent, unmarried man: "It's their work as a team that sounds new depths in Company in ways that get under your skin without your knowing it." Variety's David Rooney concurs: "Angel Desai's `Another Hundred People' nails that quintessential New York song; Heather Laws lands every laugh in the mile-a-minute `Getting Married Today' with amazing speed and clarity; and Barbara Walsh is bone-dry as brittle, world-weary Joanne. She reveals the emotional hunger beneath the character's hard shell and adds fresh nuances to `The Ladies Who Lunch,' a song indelibly associated with Elaine Stritch." As Time Out New York put it, "Sondheim's expert musical etchings, his acid craftsmanship, remain unmatched." Sondheim fans will note that this new version of Company, to be released by Nonesuch and PS Classics, restores the original act one closer, "Marry Me A Little," which was dropped from the show before its 1970 Broadway debut; the song has since taken on a life of its own as an orphaned Sondheim gem. The Company cast album is produced by PS Classics co-founder Tommy Krasker (Sondheim's The Frogs, Saturday Night, Assassins, and Sweeney Todd, among others). Along with Company, Nonesuch has also released the original cast album to Doyle's 2006 production of Sweeney Todd and the Tony-nominated A Light in the Piazza, which features a score by Nonesuch artist Adam Guettel.
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Like a whole different show
Cordyvision | Washington DC | 02/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I must begin this review by confessing that this is the third cast recording of Company that I've purchased over the years. I love the original cast recording mainly due to the incomparable Elaine Stritch and very strong performances from the rest of the supporting cast. Much as I loved it however, I was always disappointed in Dean Jones's performance as Bobby. I longed to hear a better voice sing that part. So, I got the 1995 revival cast version, mainly for the superior vocal ability of that cast's Bobby. The supporting cast was serviceable, but Debra Monk's Joanne was a little too polished for me.
This recording is a whole new experience. I've seen this revival and it ranks as one of the better theater experiences I've had. Raul Esparza doesn't have the most classically beautiful voice I've ever heard, but for phrasing, acting, and intensity, he wins. His Being Alive is transcendent and I don't think I've ever heard better. The arrangements are sparse, and although I admit I missed the full orchestra at times (Another Hundred People being one of them), they made the experience more intimate and removed some of the elements that had made the score sound occasionally very dated. In particular, the new arrangement for Someone is Waiting is excellent. Although I usually get annoyed by dialogue on cast recordings, the inclusion of the last bit of dialogue that leads into Being Alive makes the finale that much more cathartic.
I highly recommend this recording. It doesn't replace the original, but it's like a whole new show."
Another interesting take on a classic Sondheim show
Steven Valenti | Cleveland, OH | 03/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In just the last few years, there have been a bunch of interesting re-workings of Sondheim shows: "The Frogs," "Assassins," "Pacific Overtures," "Sweeney Todd," "Sunday in the Park with George," and now this new recording of "Company."
Starring Raul Esparza and directed by John Doyle, the Tony-winning director of 2005's acclaimed "Sweeney Todd," this version of "Company' uses the same conceit as his "Sweeney"-- the performers double as the orchestra. Some will undoubtedly complain, like they did for "Pacific Overtures" and "Sweeney Todd," that a smaller orchestra does not do the score justice (why that complaint seems to have escaped last year's shockingly bland "Sunday in the Park with George" recording, I have no idea). But mainly, the intimacy of the small orchestra works here.
Overall, this "Company" is about as good as previous Broadway "Company" recordings (yes, including the underrated 1996 recording-- listen again to Veanne Cox's "Getting Married Today," LaChanze's "Another Hundred People," and Debra Monk's "The Ladies Who Lunch" for proof.)
Comparing some of the recent Sondheim recordings, this one contains a lot of the same extra transitional/dialogue material that I enjoyed on the new "Pacific Overtures" and "Assassins" recordings (I still think the new recordings of those two shows outshine their originals). This "Company" also contains a lot of the stream-of-consciousness, dreamlike quality of Doyle's version of "Sweeney Todd."
But if the new recordings of "Sweeney," "Pacific," and "Assassins" come across as modern and fresh, as if they could be brand new shows, this "Company" can't escape feeling sort of stuck in the 70's. I don't mean that as a slight, but it feels very much a period piece. The presence of Esparza as the lonely bachelor Bobby is a definite plus-- his renditions of "Someone is Waiting," "Marry Me a Little," and especially the finale, "Being Alive," have some definite contemporary bite like I've not heard before. The singers playing Bobby's meddling married friends are good, if not quite as memorable as some of the performers on other "Company" recordings. I do like how there's more an emphasis on the melancholy aspects of the show -- though it almost makes you think they should probably retire the "A Musical Comedy" subtitle!
A masterpiece redone
J. Ruffer | 02/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have yet to see this particular production, but I have had this cast recording for exactly a week, and it has not left my CD player, or my mind, since then. This recording spoke to me in a way the previous recordings of Company never have.
The new orchestrations are, largely, lovely, creative, and clever. A jazzy piano is the backbone of the piece; extremely fitting for the mood. The actor/musicians are given the chance to show off in both categories, and sound marvelous (however, I have seen several clips of some failed attempts at the saxophone bits in You Could Drive a Person Crazy online. Hopefully those are very rare). Particular instances when the orchestrations shine are during Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You? (the mind boggles at how these people can act, sing, move, and play at the same time!), the end of Being Alive, and Barcelona.
The performances are across the board wonderful. Unlike the rather harsh reviewer several posts below, I will not unfairly compare performances to the original cast. This is NOT the original cast, and does not TRY to be the original cast. This production and the original are so startlingly different they might as well be different shows.
Raul Esparza is wonderful. This man brings a life to Bobby that has never been brought to the character before, and his lovely voice and acting ability serve to make you connect to Bobby. The climactic Being Alive is a perfect example.
The supporting cast is likewise wonderful. Barbara Walsh's spin on the cold Joanne is excellent, and her Ladies Who Lunch (and the scene that follows) is wonderful, and makes you realize how miserable the character really is. Heather Laws as the frantic Amy is a delight, and I have never heard Getting Married Today sung so speedily and yet still so clear.
This is a superb recording that, in my eyes, stands apart from the original recording and in many ways is more enjoyable. If you are a "original cast purist", like many theatre fans are, then stay away. If you have a more open mind regarding re-conceptualizations such as this, then purchase this recording. I doubt you will regret it."