Just for fun: a poll of sorts. Of necessity, you must vote in the comments because I can’t set up an official Dkos poll for this one.
So: I will present three different versions of a few numbers from Stephen Sondheim’s Company, and you can tell me “Who Performed It Best?”
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I’m sticking with songs from Sondheim’s Company because (i) I love this show; (ii) the songs are just terrific; and (iii) versions abound on YouTube.
The Concept: It’s Bobby’s 35th birthday, he’s still single, and his married friends want to celebrate with him. If you don’t know this musical, you can stop looking for a plot right now. It’s more of a meditation on marriage, with a lot of great stuff for the ensemble to sing and do, by which I mean there’s plenty of story. There’s just no plot.
Let’s begin with “Side by Side.”
#1.A: The Donmar Warehouse revival opened around Christmas in ‘95. The taped version aired in ‘97. (Click to watch at YT — it’s well worth your time.) Sam Mendes directed, and Adrian Lester starred as Bobby [7:34]:
#1.B: The 2011 staged concert version with Neil Patrick Harris and the NY Philharmonic [10:08]:
#1.C: And the famous 2006 staging with Raul Esparza, where the ensemble was also the orchestra. [9:02]
Bobby’s friend Amy is supposed to marry her longtime boyfriend Paul. Of course she has cold feet, and one of Sondheim’s most challenging patter songs ensues, “Not Getting Married Today”:
2.A: 2006 [4:49]
2.B: 2011 [3:28]
2.C: 1996 [5:00]
And finally, the 11 o’clock showstopper, Bobby’s epiphany, “Being Alive”:
3.A: 1996 [4:35]
3.B: 2006 [8:15]
3.C: 2011 [5:25]
A little bit of background about each production.
The 1995-6 Donmar Warehouse revival:
A London revival directed by Sam Mendes at the Donmar Warehouse opened December 13, 1995, and closed there March 2, 1996; the production quickly transferred to the Albery Theatre, with previews starting March 7, opening March 13, and closing June 29. The cast included Adrian Lester, as the first black actor to play Bobby in a major production of the show.
The 2006 Broadway revival:
This production [directed and choreographed by John Doyle] opened on Broadway on November 29, 2006, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The actors themselves provided the orchestral accompaniment. For example, Esparza plays percussion, Walsh plays Orchestra Bells and percussion, and Heather Laws (Amy) plays French horn, trumpet and flute. The production won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
The 2011 New York Philharmonic staged concert:
In April 2011, Lonny Price directed a staged concert production, with Neil Patrick Harris as Robert [….] Paul Gemignani conducted a 35-piece orchestra, which used similar orchestrations to the first Broadway production. This concert followed a long tradition of Stephen Sondheim concert productions at the New York Philharmonic, including Sweeney Todd and Passion.
So, what say you? Which version is best?