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Case Number 24794

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Stephen Sondheim's Company

Image Entertainment // 2011 // 145 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // November 9th, 2012

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart is putting in new alarms, just to make sure no song-and-dance troupes break in.

Editor's Note

Our review of Stephen Sondheim's Company (Blu-ray), published November 6th, 2012, is also available.

The Charge

"There is no block, no resistance. I am ready to be married."

Opening Statement

Sometimes, one of the songs that sticks in the back of your mind turns out to be attached to a musical. In the case of Company, that song is "Being Alive." It's a powerful song about sharing your life with someone else, a perfect fit for a musical about marriage.

Company may not be as familiar as Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, or West Side Story, but the 1970 Stephen Sondheim musical has an important place in Broadway history. It's "the first non-linear, concept musical," according to Sondheim.com. The original production ran nearly two years on Broadway, collecting six Tonys, including Best Musical.

Stephen Sondheim's Company recorded a 2011 Lincoln Center performance of the 1970 musical. Its cast includes Neil Patrick Harris, Christina Hendricks, Patti LuPone, Martha Plimpton, Jon Cryer, and Stephen Colbert.

Facts of the Case

Bachelor Robert (Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother) sits down to a quiet evening at home, only to discover a song-and-dance troupe hiding in his New York apartment. Actually, it's his mostly-married friends throwing a surprise party for him on his thirty-fifth birthday. Will Robert get married himself someday? Short scenes interspersed with song ask the question as they tell the story of Robert's bachelor life.

The Evidence

The opening scene, in which Robert trades comments with his guests before everyone breaks into song, pretty much lets you know what you're going to get for nearly two-and-a-half hours. The dialogue seems too pat; even the character Robert calls things "rehearsed." Robert reacts to a surprise party with a speech about friendship, the congratulations are perfectly in sync, and the jokes go rat-a-tat. It could be argued that perhaps the cast is a little too good; some rough edges and glitches might make the patter seem more realistic. However, when Neil Patrick Harris breaks into song, with a backup that includes a few people who could helm a musical in their own right, everything clicks.

As the musical goes on, the songs continue to outshine the comic bits in between (some of George Furth's dialogue does sound a little too much like dialogue), but the cast puts as much nuance as possible into a performance before a sizable crowd in a large auditorium. Note, for example, Stephen Colbert's longing look at a glass of alcohol as his Harry talks about his teetotaling ways. Harris' role is mostly reacting to his friends, but those reactions hold the dialogue bits together.

Company will immediately register as '70s in your mind, and that's not just because of the costumes, hairstyles, and lack of cell phones. The casual attitude toward marijuana and booze, along with the talk of youth rebellion (since quashed by student loan debt) and diet crazes, will probably be a big tipoff.

While it can at times feel like an old sitcom or sketch variety show, the basic theme of Company—with Robert looking at life on the other side of the fence while his married friends alternate between concern and envy for his single life—still holds up reasonably well, even if it occasionally gets heavy handed. Of course, with the emphasis obviously on the music, that's probably a small quibble for most viewers.

Picture quality's good for the most part, although a couple of lights-out scenes were hard to read. Between the cast and the production, this is about the best Company will ever sound.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

If you've heard the song "Being Alive," you've already heard the best moment of Company. If you're not particularly a fan of Stephen Sondheim or musicals, you might not want to bother.

A booklet accompanying the DVD includes an essay by director Lonny Price about the difficulties in bringing so many stars together. Couldn't we have seen some of this in a making-of feature?

Closing Statement

If you're looking to see Company and there's no live performance near you, Stephen Sondheim's Company will satisfy you. If you have an interest in musical theater more generally, the strong voices could make it worth a listen.

The Verdict

Not Guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 50
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Image Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 145 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Concerts and Musicals
• Drama
• Performance

Distinguishing Marks

• Booklet

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Sondheim.com








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