Last night I pulled up Company on Netflix. This production was made for Great Performances in 2007 and starred Raúl Esparza as Bobby. John Doyle was the director. The set was rather claustrophobic and the staging was very lean but well used. And if I wasn’t mistaken, the entire cast also performed on various instruments too, in rather substantial ways. If they weren’t really playing then it was, without a doubt, the best musical pantomime I’ve ever seen.
The show is, basically, “How I Met Your Mother – The Musical.” Bobby, the main character, is surrounded by married friends and really wants to get married. The problem seems to be that Bobby lacks any kind of personality whatsoever and all of the vignettes featuring his friends are infinitely more engaging and compelling than anything that directly affects Bobby. Bobby is the Ted Mosby of musical theater. The fortunate thing is that Bobby, while he is pretty much always on stage, is usually marginalized dramatically so that the rest of the ensemble can shine.
I would have taken great pleasure in seeing any of Bobby’s married couple friends anchor a full 2 hour musical. Especially Amy and Paul, basically on the strength of Amy’s neurotic bridal conniption patter song. In general, though, married life is portrayed as being not worth the effort and that all relationships are inherently dysfunctional (especially when the couple is married). As someone who got married at 22 and has been rather happily hitched for 16 years, I had a hard time connecting with that point of view. I can imagine why Stephen Sondheim would have that outlook, though.
All that stuff aside, I enjoyed it. The music was charming, I especially liked the recurring “Bobby” chorus that punctuated various spots of the whole show. There was a lot of great ensemble/counterpoint work going on, too. Some of the bits were too cheesy for my musical taste (Another 100 people, for example) and I don’t care for the excessive nasal sound that some singers produce. But, it was funny, it was entertaining, it was engaging, and I could have stood more of it. I’d watch it again and recommend it to others. I couldn’t write like that, though. It just isn’t my musical language or nature. But I’m kind of interested in spinning the Glass string quartet today to hear the connections…