Theatre Diluted, but still Impressive
I visited my favorite cinema in Marin County today (the Sequoia Theatre in Mill Valley) for their screening of COMPANY by Stephen Sondheim. This production premiered for a strictly limited engagement in NYC this April, and was filmed (and since edited) for the cinema broadcast. So for me it is show #35.
A starry cast (Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, Stephen Colbert, and others…) led gravitas to Sondheim’s loose narrative. I was not familiar with the show as I should be, and appreciated the energy of the performances – especially for such a short run.
Being rooted in the theatre, I noticed more acutely the differences in the LIVE experience of seeing this in a darkened cinema. I’m all for the expansion of theatrical media through these very en vogue live broadcasts. However, I missed the shared reaction of seeing the live performance. In this case, there was minimal clapping, some modest audience reaction, and most obviously yet sharply, the performer was not there in the flesh in front of us. This actually came to a head near the end of the screening, when the visuals failed on the final 10 minutes of the show, and the performance became a listening concert, to many audience members displeasure. (I was annoyed as well, but chose not to complain about it.)
I would have liked to have been there for the actual performances in April. A slight to modest Broadway aesthetic was visible to me, with many actors playing to the audience rather than to each other on the stage. The staging itself was innovative with a series of modular furniture units moving around the downstage. Upstage was contained with the New York Phillarmonic orchestra, and Harris almost broke the fourth wall with a very funny reference to the conductor being onstage. Not sure if that was in the original script.
Watching this show here in California made me aware of a few geographically specific references for which I seemed to be the only one that “got” them in Mill Valley. A moment where one character says they are “moving back to Cape Cod” comes to mind, but I know there were at least a few more.
They even made a theatrical trailer which I am embedding in this entry.