Thursday, November 30, 2006

Did Critics Find Doyle's Latest Revival In Good Company?

Did Critics Find Doyle's Latest Revival In Good Company?

Last evening, British director John Doyle's latest interpretation of a classic Stephen Sondheim musical opened at Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

In a season where two of the Great White Way's biggest recent classics opened to middling reviews (A Chorus Line and Les Misérables), critics weren't quick to embrace Company, either. While Doyle surely hoped that they would place it in the company of several other truly great revivals, including Doyle's other reinterpretation of Sweeney Todd, the word "lethargic" was used by more than one to describe the piece.

Describing the revival as "the chicest-looking production on Broadway," The New York Times' Ben Brantley leads up to a mostly positive note: "Mr. Doyle’s Company...isn’t the unconditional triumph that his Sweeney Todd was, partly because the show itself is less of a fully integrated piece and partly because much of the acting is weaker....But they all blossom as musicians and singers of wit and substance. As soloists they’re more than adequate, but it’s their work as a team that sounds new depths in Company in ways that get under your skin without your knowing it."

Confessing that he never really took to this Sondheim work, Clive Barnes of the New York Post offers up a three-star review: "[A]s we saw with Doyle's wonderful Sweeney Todd last season, like those strippers in Gypsy, he's a guy with a strangely workable gimmick....There's a lot to praise in Company, especially Sondheim's compelling music and lyrics. Looking back, this was the musical in which Sondheim became indisputably Sondheim -- and the Broadway musical theater would never be the same again....Yet it remains a series of sketches about communication and marriage, sustained, albeit shakily, by a fantastic score."

Almost despite her three-star recommendation, USA Today's Elysa Gardner laments: "[W]hile Doyle's new Company has a number of elements to recommend it, the whole is less than the sum of its considerable parts....But the show as a whole has not aged as well as its music, at least not judging by this interpretation....For all their elegant ennui and implied sexual quirks, Company's urban sophisticates seem very much like the pre-baby boomers they technically are."

Calling the show "funereal," Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press is more emphaticly downbeat in his review: "[T]heatrical multitasking (actors as musicians) worked well for the grisly tale of Todd, adding a weird dimension to the already creepy story of a murderous barber in 19th-century industrial London. With the more modern Company...double duty seems unnecessary, a bit pretentious and limiting to the musical ambitions of Sondheim's fine score. As a result, the episodic sketches concocted by book writer George Furth loom larger and more lethargically than in previous productions."

Calling the acting "bland" and the direction "lethargic," New York Daily News' Joe Dziemianowicz asks -- then answers -- a rhetorical question: "How do you take a ground-breaking Stephen Sondheim musical about commitment in the big city, with such a memorable score and murderous wit, and turn it into a suburban vanilla revue? Director John Doyle has managed that dubious feat with his new version of Company."

One can't help but wonder how the general public will receive Company if even the critics aren't strongly recommending it. Nonetheless, I'm scheduled to take in this revival (albeit late) come February -- I'll certainly let you know what I think of the production.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Another Company Opens For Business Tonight On Broadway (November 29, 2006)
Apple Tree In Good Company Among SOB Readers (November 6, 2006)

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At 30 November, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just found your blog and it's great. May I suggest Durango at the Public, well worth the time.

At 30 November, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks for the comments on Durango. While I've written plenty about The Public, I hadn't said anything yet about Durango, the Julia Cho play enjoying its world premiere through December 10.

Wish I could see it, but I'm literally all over the place during the next two weeks (Memphis, Bentonville AR, Tulsa and Chicago), but I'll keep my "eyes" out for additional productions of the work.

Appreciate the heads-up, and welcome to the conversation!


At 30 November, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


To be honest, I thought they'd give Doyle high marks on Company. But the novelty appears to have worn-out its welcome very quickly, hasn't it?

I only hope that your prediction doesn't come to fruition. There's nothing like a real orchestra to make a tuner sing. And clearly, the musicians on Broadway feel so adamant about it that they're willing to strike over the issue.



At 01 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve as always for your reviews of the reviews! I've had a very busy week and you have saved me great effort and time once again.
Best wishes on your upcomming travels; I hope you take in some great theatre along the way!

At 01 December, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thank you, Martha! Heard Chicago got buried in snow - glad I'm not headed there just yet.

It's off to Northwest Arkansas and then Tulsa tomorrow where I'll be taking my 95 year old grandfather to see one of his favorite recording artists, Anne Murray. I just might write about the show, too.

Stay warm!

At 01 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Anne Murray with your Grampa sounds like a lifetime memory for sure. How fantastic!
Yep, snow in Chicago... barely slowed me down though! Although... I wouldn't have wanted to be traveling through Ohare.

I hope you have safe, enriching travels and a happy return. I can't wait to hear how low Ms. Murray can sing theese days!

At 02 December, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks Martha. I may just write about how fortunate I am to still have such a sharp grandfather - it's fun to be able to do something like going to a concert he's interested in!

At 04 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you might be interested in this in-depth XM Radio interview with John Doyle

At 04 December, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thank you American Theatre Wing for sharing! Glad you found this SOB!


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