Let’s face it, there is a lot of crap on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the other streaming services. When you are paying $7-$9 for unlimited movies though, it isn’t exactly surprising that most of what you have to choose from is drivel. Thankfully though, there are certainly gems to be found, you just have to look a little to find them.
Or, you can just listen to me. I am always very aware of what is coming and going on the streaming services thanks to weekly posts on sites like Vulture and The Dissolve as well as my streaming best friend, Instant Watcher. If that weren’t enough, I just fall down the rabbit hole of perusing the offerings more often than I would like to admit.
My first suggestion in this “Instant Gratification” series came from such a perusal. I am not exactly sure how it came up in my feed, but given that I have been refining my Amazon preferences for a good decade, it doesn’t surprise me that the 2011 New York Philharmonic performance of “Company” popped up. In fact, it isn’t even the first taped performance of “Company” floating around the streaming world. The 2007 revival with Raul Esparza in the leading role of Robert was on Netflix for some time, and it was something I watched that introduced me to the seminal Sondheim musical.
When I watched the ’07 version, I appreciated some of the numbers in the show, but I didn’t understand what the big deal was about this show. Then I watched the 2011 version, which features Neil Patrick Harris as Robert, Patti Lupone as his mom, and a remarkable cast of friends that includes the likes of Craig Bierko, Jon Cryer, Martha Plimpton, and Steven Colbert. I know it sounds cliché, but I literally couldn’t tear my eyes from the TV.
Perhaps I wasn’t quite old enough to appreciate the show the first time around, as the 07 cast was certainly talented. Really though, I think the credit goes to Harris for turning me around on this show. Honestly, is there anything this guy can’t do? Doogie, Barney, Dr. Horrible, and now sensitive unmarried 35 year old Robert belting it out about life as a single person? It is astonishing how he can get me to buy into him as any character under the sun. I don’t make it to New York City often, but if I do while he is Hedwig on Broadway, you know where to find me, bopping my head along to Wig in a Box.
But until then, I think I might just watch this staging another dozen times. Harris isn’t the only highlight. It goes without saying that Patti LuPone knows her way around the stage. What might surprise you is that Colbert, the tongue-in-cheek funnyman, is actually remarkably sincere, convincing, and funny to boot in his part as Plimpton’s husband. His performance in “Sorry-Grateful” shocked me, it was such a departure from what I know of him.
Then there is Katie Finneran as Amy, the bride with cold feet who gets to perform the show stopper of a number, “Not Getting Married”. I’m going to make this about me for a second, which shouldn’t surprise you if you’ve read my blog at all prior to this. I did musical theater all through my childhood and teen years, but I had a tiny problem. I can dance no problem and acting was never really an issue, but, fact of the matter is, I cannot sing to save my life. I am seriously tone deaf. So, whenever I see parts in musicals in which singing is minimal, I add them to my list of dream roles. I long to play Anybodys, the girl who wants to be a Jet in “West Side Story”. I feel like I could pull off Kristine from “A Chorus Line” with ease, as the whole point of her song “Sing!” is that she suffers from the same problem I do.
Now, the character of Amy in “Company” does sing a little bit, but most of the song is spoken rapidly and is about the comedy and the character. Katie Finneran plays Amy in the 2011 revival and nails it, though Madeline Khan’s rendition of this tune remains my favorite. I will give Finneran that her physical comedy really brought a lot to the role though, and has me even more inspired to someday try and live in a town with community theater and someday try and play this part.
So, will you enjoy “Company” as much as I will? If you are not a musical theater person, no, you probably won’t. If you are 19 or 20, you may not really understand the incredibly deep themes at play in this musical. If you are curious just how talented Colbert is, just watch his vignette and it is worth your time. If you want to see NPH go all NPH on Sondheim, this is can’t miss endeavor. And, if you are a little more grown up and you enjoy the theater, there is no way you won’t enjoy this masterwork of artistry. I mean, just look: