BWW Reviews: Company the Film - Is it a Substitute for Live Theater? No, But It Sure Is Wonderful

I must admit I was looking forward to the film of the New York Philharmonic Spring Gala which occurred on April 12, 2011. If you saw the Tony Awards a few days ago, Neil Patrick Harris did a superb job as MC. It was one of the most entertaining Tony Award presentations I've seen.  There was even a sneak peak of what to expect of  "Company the Film".

And if you look elsewhere on this site, you'll see my review of the stage version of Company which ends this week-end at Harford County Community College in Bel Air (which I highly recommend).

 I was able to snag a hot ticket to see the film at the sold-out Landmark  Harbor East Theater in Baltimore.  The 151 seats were filled with theater lovers anticipating the Sondheim musical.

It was nice to watch a musical in huge high back rocking-chair seats, with cup-holders, plenty of rest rooms for both males AND females, and plenty of leg room.  Just like the typical Broadway house.

Prior to the film starting, there was a well-done commercial for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Martin Gilbert. I've never seen  such a commercial.

As they say about sports events, "Being there is twice the fun", the same could apply here.

When you watch any game in person, YOU are the director. You can focus on any particular aspect of the game.

The same holds for theater.  Which actor you keep your eye on is up to you, especially when the ensemble is performing.  It's not that much of a problem during a solo like when Patti LuPone brings down the house singing "The Ladies Who Lunch".  On film, the camera focuses on LuPone just as you would at a live performance.  (Notice conductor Paul Gemignani in the background of the photo as she is singing.)  This number alone is worth the price of admission.

When there's an ensemble number, like the blockbuster "Side by Side", there was so much going on. There was Neil Patrick Harris making an incredible leap (who knew he was also an excellent baton twirler), one working a hula hoop, and others doing some sort of magic.  I would have liked to have seen them all.

By the way, have you applauded in a movie theater?  Well, it was kind of hard not to and many of the attendees behaved like it was LIVE.

On the whole, the film was incredibly enjoyable.   I could see it again and again. But I do recommend you see it in movie theater with a nice large screen and a good sound system so you can enjoy the gorgeous sound of the 35-piece New York Philharmonic and the gorgeous orchestrations  by the incomparable Jonathan Tunick.  I do wonder if conductor Gemingani  is ok. The superb Sondheim specialist sat in a chair during the entire concert instead of conducting upright.

One of the funniest bits of the evening is the hysterical performance of Katie Finneran performing "Getting Married Today".  When she was trying to tell the orchestra to stop playing, she became so frustrated she approached Gemingani , took his baton, and broke it in half.

Christina Hendricks, known for the television series "Mad Men", is a first class show-stopper as the dim-witted stewardess. Her song "Barcelona" is a real treat.

Another Broadway and television star  Martha Plimpton (in the under-appreciated "Raising Hope") shines.

Tony-winner Anika Noni Rose looks just a little different from her role in Caroline or Change.  Why isn't a musical written to showcase her talents? She is astounding.

After Act I, INTERMISSION splashed on the screen. What followed was a mad dash to the rest rooms except...there was NO intermission. Act II started immediately.  My advice?  Why not use the intermission or don't say intermission.

I would also have enjoyed reading a program.  I'm sure attendees wanted to know about the actors, directors, etc.

I was able to meet someone who actually attended the GALA in April who was sitting in my row. Lutherville resident Alex Elias (18), who just graduated Park School and is heading to the University of Pennsylvania was one of the lucky few to see the performance in person.

He explained he was taking a course on "The New York Times" and read an interview about Stephen Colbert and the Gala.  He couldn't believe when he read that the actors only had ONE rehearsal.  By chance, he was going to be in New York the date of the Gala while his parents were attending a wedding.  They knew what a big theater fan he is and had no objection paying the $360 for his ticket which happened to be in the fifth row  center orchestra.  He mentioned he got a kick watching the expressions of composer Sondheim during the evening who had a perpetual smile on his face while sitting on The Edge of his seat.

Alex commented he thought there would be more films of Broadway shows which would help spread the word about theater to people who are not able to attend shows in person.

In the audience for the film was Center Stage Auction Coordinator Sydney Wilner who attended with a group from the theater.  Some commented that the digital camera made many of the female actors look "big".

And who would have thought sitting two rows in front of me was Robert W. Opel, the director of the Phoenix Festival Theater's  production of Company  (which I reviewed elsewhere on this site). You still have the opportunity to see this show LIVE this week-end.

The film "Company" stars Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, Craig Bierko, Jon Cryer, Katie Finneran, Christine Hendricks, Aaron Lazar, Jill Paice, Martha Plimpton, Anika Noni Rose, Jennifer Lauren Thompson, Jim Walton, Chryssie Whitehead and Patti LuPone. For tickets and showtimes, visit www.companyonscreen.com.  Plan to spend about $18 a ticket.

For comments, write to cgshubow@broadwayworld.com.



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From This Author Charles Shubow