We've got Company. The show, that is. Several weeks ago, I went to see the "new, updated" Company with some friends. I love Sondheim, and I enjoyed John Doyle's recreation of Sweeney Todd (so did Thing Two, which is a major miracle since he's completely, totally, unabashedly anti-Broadway). So... what's not to love?
First, the book is horrible. Always has been. It's bad lounge patter in between some great songs. The lead-up to "Ladies Who Lunch"? Please. Completely unbelievable. If you've seen the show before (I saw the 1995 Roundabout revival), you don't need to see it again unless it's got a great star or great director: you can live with just hearing the sound recording.
Second, the direction. I totally bought the cast-as-orchestra during Sweeney. It added something to the show, made it very different from the two productions I'd seen before. But here? Nope. Didn't work. It detracted from the songs (particularly when someone is trying to play and sing at the same time), and just was... messy. Unlike with Sweeney, where it was more in the background.
I found it interesting that two of my Big Broadway friends fell on opposite sides of the like/dislike discussion. One totally bought into the concept and loved the production, the other didn't. Like me, the book was too problematic and the staging to chaotic for her. The show has closed now (it was open when I started this review, but then I put it into DRAFT and then forgot about it), but the cast album lives on.
Get that. Raul Esparza is wonderful, and Barbara Walsh does a good job making you forget Elaine Stritch's performance (I liked her waaay back when, in Big, and still remember her "Stop, Time" number).