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'Company' on PBS's Great Performances

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So it's not that Company fares better when its songs are excerpted, its that SS's songs have a life of their own that, for me, is often more satisfying outside of the context of the shows. One could say that this is true of many great songwriters, no?

I think that is true of a great many songwriters, but less and less true the more the writer is a musical theatre writer, especially one post-Oklahoma!. Personally, I think most of Sondheim's song have a very hard time living outside the pieces for which they were written, the occasional hit like "Send in the Clowns" being very much the exception.

As dirac astutely noted, pre-Oklahoma! many theatre songs were written in ways that enabled them to live on as pieces outside of their shows. They were written with as much an eye to becoming pop hits as pieces of a story. For example, does anyone really remember the context of "My Funny Valentine" (it's a love song to a character named Valentine, in Babes in Arms. It was very common for songs to be written for one show, dropped and then inserted into another show. The Gershwins' "The Man I Love" was in numerous shows before finally becoming a hit.

But after the Rodgers & Hammerstein that became harder as songs became more and more tailored to specific characters and stories, and I think with Sondheim, the spiritual song of R&H, it becomes extremely difficult. The only song I can remember of Sondheim's being dropped and reinserted is "Johanna" from Sweeney Todd, and I've heard that some revivals still put the song back in its original context. Company's songs do better out of context than most but it's one of his earliest. It's hard to imagine much of Sunday in the Park with George other than in excerpts of the show.

Regarding the orchestration question, it's not an area that I know a lot about. I think composers that do their own is very much the exception and not the rule, with first Bennett and now Tunick being the first choice of top-flight composers. Gershwin did do more of his own as he became more experienced.

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They were written with as much an eye to becoming pop hits as pieces of a story.

Thanks for posting, sidwich. It occurs to me that changing tastes in pop music may also have contributed to the trend - perhaps less pressure on musical theatre composers to come up with hits, which were hard to come by in any case. (We may have lost something along with that, however - there's a certain discipline that comes from having to respond to the demands of the marketplace. If I had to choose between an evening of Rodgers and Hart and an evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein I would probably elect for the former on most occasions.)

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I finally got to the superb Pennebaker movie last week. Thanks, dirac, for pushing me to watch it. One gets to see Sondheim a lot (looking much younger than I had thought for even that period), and the songs focussed on most are 'You Could Drive a Person Crazy', 'Not Getting Married Today', 'Another Hundred People', 'The Ladies Who Lunch' and 'Being Alive'. There's a bit of 'Side by Side by Side'. Really terrific for Stritch fans, as much time is taken on very small details of her takes.

The best thing for me, as having always treasured that long-ago memory of hearing 'Another Hundred People' for the first time (when I saw it, before I got the LP), is that I then remembered that, 2 years after hearing Pamela Myers knock me out singing it, I worked with her, as one of twin pianos, in a benefit at the 46th St. Theater, which was itself for the Phoenix Theater. I much more frequently think back to Rosemary Harris's Lady Teazle soliloquy, Susan Watson's beautiful singing with Jack Cassidy (I just remember a phrase of their song), and Bibi Osterwald growling out her already-then-old song from 'The Golden Apple'. We did do a song with Pam Myers, but I don't remember what it was anymore; I only remember telling her how marvelous it had been to hear her sing 'Another Hundred People' and she replied that she knew that it was one of those incredibly rare things that could hardly happen to you, the special privilege of being in such an electric production.

It was also a pleasure to finally see Dean Jones, and the time warp gets worse when I realize that the taped recording session was even a bit longer ago than when I saw the show, as Larry Kert had taken over and was a more seasoned Broadway performer. But Jones is charming and you can really match up the exact sounds with his performance of 'Being Alive' with the record. I cannot remember the reason for Jones's very short stint in the show, but maybe sidwich knows.

It was all quite full of energy, Beth Howland marvelously quirky in 'Getting Married Today' and Stritch most enjoyable. I found an old VHS and think people who may be interested can find it on eBay in either vhs or dvd. And here is the place you can really see the instruments that were used, including some closeups of strangely unexpected counterpoint in instruments that you don't hear so obviously once it is blended into the full orchestration.

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I seem to remember that early on Jones became unhappy with the show and his part but agreed to stay until the opening in order to avoid any negative publicity that might have resulted from his leaving during the out of town tryouts. sidwich or others may know more (or better). I’m sure Kert was terrific but Jones was certainly perfectly cast.

It was also a pleasure to finally see Dean Jones, and the time warp gets worse when I realize that the taped recording session was even a bit longer ago than when I saw the show, as Larry Kert had taken over and was a more seasoned Broadway performer

I think it was standard procedure at the time to record the album the weekend after the opening.

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I had a conversation about this broadcast recently with a friend who'd seen the original production with both Dean Jones and Larry Kert, and he thought that Jones had been much the better casting as Bobby, not because he was necessarily a superior performer but his reserve, almost passivity, in the role were closer to what Bobby should be like; Kert was far too active and involved, throwing the show out of balance. He liked Esparza very much and was more favorable about the show in general then I thought he'd be, so there you are.

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