Saturday, 1 August 2015

CD Review: Company (1996 London Cast Recording)

“It's things like using force together,
Shouting till you're hoarse together,
Getting a divorce together"

Sam Mendes’ production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company was a big success at the Donmar Warehouse in 1995 and subsequently transferred to the Albery Theatre (now the Noël Coward). A recording of the show can be found in full on YouTube at the moment but I restrained myself to just listening to the cast recording, which I have to say was something of a disappointment in the end despite seeming promising.

It’s quite an odd thing to listen to, often frustratingly inconsistent as in the normally reliable Anna Francolini’s ‘Another Hundred People’ in which a broad Noo Yoik accent fades in and out in a most distracting manner. Sophie Thompson battles gamely with ‘Getting Married Today’ but without the assured brilliance of her acting to complement it, the vocal alone doesn’t really pass muster.

Sheila Gish’s abrasive ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ has a uniqueness about it which makes Joanne bitterer than I’ve ever seen her onstage but Clive Rowe locates a gorgeous sweetness in Sorry-Grateful which acts as something of a counterbalance. The thinness of Jonathan Tunick’s orchestrations is sometimes problematic though, giving an anaemic feel to a complex score that should be well-nourished. 

And it’s a little odd to hear such fragility in Adrian Lester’s voice, a choice that could be seen to work in favour of a brittle Bobby but one that is a little disconcerting to listen to – ‘Being Alive’ demands something more assured even from its uncertain beginnings. It’s tempting to think that this soundtrack exposes Mendes’ decision to go for actors who can hold a tune rather than bona fide MT stars - I reckon watching it would have been a better bet. 


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