Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Movie Review: Company with the New York Philharmonic

I just got back from a wonderful treat--seeing the digital movie version of one of Stephen Sondheim's earliest musical, Company, performed at the New York Philharmonic.  It was done concert style, with minimal staging and costumes, etc., but with a truly all-star cast, including Neil Patrick Harris in the lead as Bobby, Patti Lapone in the iconic role of Joanne, and other award-winning performers of screen and stage. For a list of other performers, see the trailer:

To see a sample of one of the bigger performance numbers, view this clip of "Side by Side":

Now, truth be told, this not really a show for middle schoolers.  It is basically a fairly profound musical discussion of the pros and cons of relationships, particularly marriage.  The protagonist alternates between wondering why he hasn't gotten married yet, like the five couples that make up his best friends, and examining those marriages with a jaundiced eye and wondering why he would ever want to do that to himself.  It touches on adult themes, including alcoholism, drug usage, and sex, as well as a pretty sophisticated look at marriages.

However, I just love Sondheim, and really enjoyed this performance, even in its minimal state.  And it made it really nice to see on the large screen.  Unfortunately, this was the last night of a limited four-night showing of the film in the theaters.  But I imagine it will come to Netflix soon, and I recommend it if you are a Sondheim fan.

This show was particularly interesting for me because I haven't seen Company for at least 20 years.  And when I saw it before, I was listening to it all with single ears.  It has a whole new level of richness and meaning watching it now that I am married.  It gives you some great musical food for thought about relationships between spouses, as well as reminding you about the good and the bad of your single days.

The one thing that might relate to middle schoolers is the fact that this may be a new trend in the movies:  showing big screen presentations of performances.  The New York Philharmonic only had four nights of Company, so not many people got to see the live performance.  But releasing it digitally on a big screen gives a performance-like experience (my friend and I had to keep stopping ourselves from clapping after a musical number), but makes it accessible to a lot more people.  On the way out of the theater, I also saw ads for a series of operas that were going to be shown, as well as a ballet series.  The movie industry has to keep reinventing itself, just like many others effected by the digital revolution, and this looks like one new way they are trying to survive.  But it's one that I applaud.

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