A few friends and I drove up and over to icky Rosemont yesterday to see the filmed NYPhil concert of Company starring Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, Patti LuPone, Martha Plimpton and more. Here are a few of my thoughts:
- Neil Patrick Harris was very fine in the book scenes. He’s a charmer and, yet, non-threatening. I can imagine it’s pleasant to have him around to look at, drink with and practice your latest karate moves on. It’s just when he started singing that things grew problematic. Such as, his final notes in “Marry Me a Little.” “I’m ready!!” Um, I don’t you you are, girl.
- Martha Plimpton, to me, was the strongest in the all-star cast. Too bad about her distracting wig, though. I think the costume designer may have bought that at the Spirit Halloween Supercenter in a vinyl bag labeled “Flower Power Pussycat.”
- Anika Noni Rose looked either nervous or scared or both performing “Another Hundred People.” Her eyes were completely dead in every scene.
- LuPone: I absolutely loved her. I thought she made bold, if a bit bizarre, choices with Joanne and sold the hell out of “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Woe to those folks in the front rows who got her drink thrown on them in the final beat. However, my friend thought she was the absolute worst part of the thing. HATED her. The quality of her actual performance probably rests somewhere in the middle.
- Katie Finneran didn’t give the best “Getting Married Today” I’ve ever heard, but she certainly gave it her all, and I laughed. She’s a natural comedian, and her scene following the number was very good.
- Christina Hendricks, as the ditzy airline stewardess April, was also a surprise. I’ve never watched Mad Men, so really had no idea who she was, other than Tom and Lorenzo commenting on her inability to dress her busty frame. She gave off a breathy Marilyn Monroe vibe, and her “butterfly” monologue was pitch-perfect.
- Overall, the direction was about what I’ve come to expect from Lonny Price, after having seen nearly every Ravinia Sondheim concert he’s staged. He’s a knack for doing a lot with very little rehearsal time, and keeping the action fluid when most other directors in a concert setting would opt for “stand and sing.” That said, this concert came across a bit flat onscreen.
- The title of this filmed concert irks me: “Stephen Sondheim’s Company.” Yes, Sondheim wrote the music, but the original idea for the piece was George Furth, who wrote the play that became the musical (learn more here). However, they have to market the thing, and Sondheim is more recognizable than George Furth. But Stephen Colbert is more recognizable than Stephen Sondheim. So maybe they should have titled it “Stephen Colbert in Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Company’” Or maybe just, “Stephen Colbert Sings!” But, based on what I saw yesterday, that would be false advertising.
- Watching a filmed concert in a movie theatre is an odd experience. You want to clap, but then feel strange because who are you clapping for? You want to read a program, but there aren’t any. People are eating popcorn around you, which at first seems rude, but then you realize you’re at the Muvico in Rosemont and next door The Green Lantern is making explosions during NPH’s introspective moments. So you turn on your iPhone and play a round of Scrabble during a boring passage. What, what? Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. You don’t know.
Did you see it? What did you think?