British director John Doyle found an unusual and different way of staging Stephen Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd, cutting it down to a minimum and having the actors double as musicians. After starting out regionally in Great Britain, his version earned a well-received Broadway production in 2005. He took the same approach with a second Sondheim musical, Company, a year later, and this one too came to New York, 11 years after the first Broadway revival of the 1970 show. If anything, the approach works even better than it did with Sweeney Todd. The show has 14 characters, which means that the new orchestrations by Mary-Mitchell Campbell don't have to be that small, but then Company's music doesn't need a big orchestra, mixing as it does pop styles with elements of vaudeville razzmatazz. As was true of Doyle's Sweeney Todd, the effect of having the actors double as musicians is largely a theatrical one that doesn't translate to the cast album. There are exceptions to this, for instance the saxophone trio that sings and plays "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," with the saxes substituting for some of the original Andrews Sisters-like harmonies. But to a large extent, on disc, this Company is just another one to add to the two previous Broadway and two London cast recordings, the main difference being that it is about eight-and-a-half minutes longer than the original Broadway cast album by virtue of the inclusion of "Marry Me a Little," a song cut from the first production that was added into the 1995 revival and is retained here, and a considerable amount of dialogue (written by librettist George Furth) that gives a better sense of how the songs work in the show. The cast is led by Raúl Esparza in the part of Bobby, the 35-year-old New York bachelor struggling with issues of romantic commitment while interacting with his married friends and his girlfriends. Esparza sings emotionally and well, and he is matched by the other 13 performers. The original Broadway cast album of Company has yet to be bettered, in part because it continues to seem a definitive treatment of the score. This version is also very good and offers some slight differences to recommend it.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann