The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
YouTube Summer 2020
This 2006 Broadway
production, recorded for US Public Television, is inventive and even
re-inventive, one of the best versions of this most-Sondheimish of
Sondheim musicals since the original.
British audiences may not
recognise many in the cast – star Raul Esparza is best known, even to
Americans, for a running role on one of the Law And Order variants – but
they will be happy to be introduced to them.
And British theatregoers may
well recognise the signature style of director John Doyle, casting
actor-singers who also play instruments, so they serve as the onstage
orchestra, carrying their instruments around in character and accompanying
each other and sometimes themselves.
That staging device proves
particularly apt for Company, which calls for the secondary characters to
double as a commenting chorus, and the sight of instrumentalists moving
about the stage contributes to the show's
It also allows for some
clever and even insightful twists on audience expectations. In You Could
Drive A Person Crazy the three girls carry their saxes as they sing, with
the boop-boop-a-doops replaced by saxophone bleats. The shock moment in
Side By Side when Bobby realises he has no partner is set up by short
instrumental duets rather than dance steps.
And when Bobby sits down at a
piano to accompany himself in Being Alive, all the cultural weight of
lonely saloon singers supports the dramatic moment.
Belated reminder: Bobby, a
35-year-old bachelor, observes all the imperfections of his friends'
marriages, but is then forced to examine his own single life. And Raul
Esparza is the most observant and note-taking Bobby I've ever seen, very
much to the show's betterment.
Rather than being blithely
detached through most of the evening only to have a shock epiphany near
the end, Esparza shows Bobby's self-satisfaction wavering almost from the
start. The video version's close-ups help us see him seeing and thinking
about both the good and bad he sees around him.
Almost alone among previous
Bobbys he is aware of the chorus, and reacts to the challenges of The
Little Things and other commentary numbers.
This may be one reason why
Marry Me A Little, which was added to the score after the first production
and has always seemed out of place to me, works better here than ever
before – it is appropriate and dramatically satisfying that this Bobby
should let us see, as the Act One climax, how far he's come and how far he
has yet to go.
It's not a one-man show.
Though Barbara Walsh, like every other actress-singer playing sophisticate
Joanne, can only confirm that she is not Elaine Stritch, Walsh comes
closer than anyone else but Stritch in capturing the disappointment in
herself that generates Joanne's attacks on others, and her Ladies Who
Lunch is as powerful as you're ever likely to see.
Angel Desai's Marta is less
hippie and more adopted-New-Yorker, transforming Another Hundred People
from mere patter song to a slightly mournful blues. And, speaking of
patter songs, Heather Laws goes delightfully crazy in Getting Married,
while Elizabeth Stanley raises April from stock dumb blonde to a figure of
An excellent Company to see as your first or twentieth.
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