Wednesday, July 11, 2018

50 Favourite Musicals: 46: COMPANY (1970) (Stephen Sondheim)

The 50 shows that have stood out down the years and, as we get up among the paint cards, the shows that have become the cast recording of my life:


First performed: 1970, Alvin Theater, NY
First seen by me: 1996, Albery Theatre, London
Productions seen: two

Score: Stephen Sondheim
Book: George Furth
Plot:  Robert is single and living in New York; on his 35th birthday his best friends - five couples - throw him a surprise party which finally makes him confront his lack of commitment in relationships.

Five memorable numbers: BEING ALIVE, THE LADIES WHO LUNCH, BARCELONA, GETTING MARRIED TODAY, SIDE BY SIDE BY SIDE

As you all reel from the fact that a Sondheim musical is only at #46, I have to say that, although it's not my favourite of his shows, I think I enjoyed it more than the 'Variety' critic who reported after seeing it's 1970 Boston try-out "As it stands now it's for ladies' matinees, homos and misogynists."  Charmed.  I had to wait quite a while to see it and finally caught up with Sam Mendes' Donmar revival when it transferred to the Albery in 1996 with the extraordinary cast of Adrian Lester as Robert, the late Sheila Gish as Joanne, the unstoppable Sophie Thompson as Amy and such solid musical performers as Teddy Kempner, Paul Bentley, Clare Burt, Clive Rowe and Michael Simkins - a company as good as that can distract you from thoughts that the characters are all fairly annoying.  My main COMPANY memory is seeing Patti LuPone at the Leicester Square Theatre who ended her show with Joanne's coruscating solo THE LADIES WHO LUNCH and, at the song's climax, tossed her martini (aka water) into the audience - and over me.  Cow. Let's see if she can do it again in October when we see her play the role in Marianne Elliott's upsy-gender revival at the Gielgud....

Here is a remarkable performance of THE LADIES WHO LUNCH by it's originator Elaine Stritch - the performance is worthy of Beckett it's so unflinching..

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