1996 London Revival Cast

Company [1996 London Revival Cast]

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For 25 years, the original Broadway cast album of Company represented Stephen Sondheim's score for the 1970 musical, an examination of contemporary romantic relationships in New York City. (There was also a so-called original London cast album, but it was really just a revised version of the Broadway recording.) Then, in quick succession came two major revivals, the first by the Roundabout Theater Company on Broadway and the second at the Donmar Warehouse in London; both resulted in new cast recordings. The Donmar production (which opened in December 1995, but transferred to the West End's Albery Theatre the following March, such that it is billed as the 1996 London revival) is represented here, and it is the least of the three recordings of the score. The main problem is a common one when the British attempt a strictly American setting: the accents. Most of the performers of this ensemble work well enough with the material, which touches lightly on '70s pop and jazz styles and delves more deeply into old-time vaudeville, minimizing the damage by not trying to do too much, but some of the major songs suffer from failed ambitions. The CD booklet does not credit the songs to individual singers, but it can be presumed that "Another Hundred People" is being sung by Anna Francolini, since the song is usually assigned to the character of Marta, whom she plays. If so, she has been listening to Cyndi Lauper records, and she tries for a similar working-class, outer-borough New York accent. But she overdoes it to the point of caricature, and then occasionally lapses into British pronunciations, such as the word "remarks," which comes out "remahks." Sophie Thompson, playing Amy and therefore presumably singing the rapid-fire patter song "Getting Married Today," veers from one voice to another, not really having time to rid herself of her British accent in the rush to get all the words out coherently, though she tries. Sheila Gish as Joanne must be the singer of "The Ladies Who Lunch," and, possessed of a gravelly voice, she attempts to impersonate the similarly throaty Elaine Stritch, who introduced the song on Broadway. She succeeds much of the time, although she occasionally recalls Hermione Gingold instead. Adrian Lester is unobjectionable in the lead role of Robert, the 35-year-old bachelor undecided about matrimony, and that constitutes praise as far as this recording goes. Stick with the original Broadway cast album.

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