By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun
6:01 PM EDT, June 9, 2011
Four decades ago, "Company" opened on Broadway, putting Stephen Sondheim firmly on the music theater map. The show left an indelible impression on a young person who saw the premiere in 1970.
"I was taken to the show when I was 11 years old for my birthday," said actor and director Lonny Price. "'Company' has one of the best collections of theater songs ever. This show never gets old for me. It never disappoints me."
Back in April, Price directed a starry concert version of the Sondheim classic presented by the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. The cast, headed by Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother"), included the likes of Broadway icon Patti LuPone, political satirist Stephen Colbert and the curvaceous Christina Hendricks of "Mad Men" fame.
If you weren't in Manhattan for the splashy event, you'll get another chance to catch it next week — at your local movie theater, shown in HD.
Price, who also directed the New York Philharmonic's semi-staged version of Lerner and Loewe's "Camelot" in 2008, seems inspired by the challenges of putting a Broadway show in a concert hall with a symphony orchestra.
"What I like about having a skeletal set is that it requires the audience's imagination," Price said from New York, after a rehearsal for Sunday's Tony Awards show, which will feature the "Company" cast in a production number. "When you just give them a suggestion of something, they need to work a little more."
"Company" examines a bunch of well-off urban types and their problems with starting or preserving relationships. The center of attention is 35-year-old, still single Robert, whose married friends worry about his being alone.
"I try to find one large gesture that tells the story or gives it context," Price said. "The idea I came up with for this was couches. There are love seats for the couples, a single chair for Robert. At the end, he gets his own love seat."
Devising a concept for the concert presentation was the easy part. Rehearsing the cast proved trickier.
"It was ridiculous," Price said. "The first time all of them were in the same room was the day it opened. We had what to my mind was a disastrous dress rehearsal. But there's a reason these people are stars. They're thoroughbreds. Watching them grow and play with the audience during the performances was wonderful."
Putting "Company" onto film required 12 cameras and 2,000 shots. Price used plenty of wide angles, conscious of how the product would look on a movie screen.
"Seeing a show in the theater is one thing," the director said. "Seeing it [in HD] is an equally valid experience. I really do think this form has a theatricality about it. The tickets in New York were up to $300. That shuts out a lot of people. And it was only for four performances. This way, everyone in the country can go."
If you go
"Company" will be shown in a limited run starting on Wednesday at Landmark Theatres in Harbor East; Owings Mills 17; Bel Air Cinema 14; Cinemark Egyptian 24 at Arundel Mills; Snowden Square 14 and IMAX in Columbia; Annapolis Harbor Center; AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring; and other locations. For more information, go to screenvision.com/s/showing/Company.
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