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Great Performances Programs

Great Performances | Stephen Sondheim's Company with the New York Philharmonic

Watch Friday, November 8, 2013 at 9pm on WMHT TV.

Great Performances  presents the New York Philharmonic’s concert staging of Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning musical Company with an all-star cast including (in alphabetical order) Craig Bierko (as Peter), Stephen Colbert (as Harry), Jon Cryer (as David), Katie Finneran (as Amy), Neil Patrick Harris (as Robert), Christina Hendricks (as April), Adam Lazar (as Paul), Patti LuPone (as Joanne), Jill Paice (as Susan), Martha Plimpton (as Sarah), Anika Noni Rose (as Marta), Jennifer Laura Thompson (as Jenny), Jim Walton (as Larry), and Chryssie Whitehead (as Kathy).

Captured from the stage of Avery Fisher Hall at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the musical will air as part of the 2013 PBS Arts Fall Festival.

Sondheim specialist Paul Gemignani conducts Jonathan Tunick’s original orchestrations arranged for a 35-piece orchestra. Lonny Price, who directed SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert on Great Performances, directs; Josh Rhodes is the choreographer.  Ellen M. Krass produced this concert production for broadcast.

Set in a swinging New York City evocative of the time of the show’s 1970 Broadway debut, Company follows perennial bachelor Robert (Harris) on the occasion of his 35th birthday as his five married couple friends gather to celebrate and offer varying degrees of relationship advice.  Their interactions are presented in a series of vignettes, primarily through Robert’s eyes. The show’s many Sondheim standards include “Company,” “Side by Side by Side,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “Another Hundred People,” “Barcelona” and “Being Alive.”  In assessing the performance, Stephen Holden in The New York Times praised “the suave, dynamically subtle contribution of the mighty Philharmonic” as well as “the witty musical staging.”  

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by George Furth, Company first opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on April 26, 1970, produced and directed by Harold Prince. The show ran for 705 performances and received the 1971 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Lyrics, Best Set Design, and Best Direction of a Musical, among 14 nominations. It has returned in various revivals, most recently in 2006 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway, with Raúl Esparza as Robert, in a production that was also broadcast on Great Performances.

Paul Gemignani has been the music director of more than 40 Broadway and West End shows, including Follies, Pacific Overtures, Candide, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Evita, Dreamgirls, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods, On the Twentieth Century, Sunday in the Park with George, Jerome Robbins’s Broadway, Crazy for You, Passion, High Society, and Kiss Me, Kate. In 2004 he was the music director for Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, The Frogs, and the Japan National Theatre Company’s production of Pacific Overtures.

In 2006 he received a Prime Time Emmy Award for Best Musical Direction for a Great Performances presentation of South Pacific; Mr. Gemignani served as the music director of the New York Philharmonic’s concert performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies in September 1985 (which was the basis of a Great Performances broadcast); and in March 2010 he conducted the Philharmonic’s production of SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert, which aired on Great Performances.

Company marks Lonny Price’s return to the New York Philharmonic, where he had directed and co-produced SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert. His previous Philharmonic collaborations include Candide, starring Paul Groves, Kristin Chenoweth, and Patti LuPone in May 2004 (broadcast on Great Performances, Emmy nomination); he directed Sweeney Todd with the San Francisco Symphony (also broadcast on PBS; Emmy Award) and helmed the previous telecast of Company in 2006, all of which were also produced by Ellen M. Krass. In March 2014 Lonny Price will direct and co-produce the New York Philharmonic’s staged production of Sweeney Todd starring Bryn Terfel and conducted by Alan Gilbert. In his early career as an actor, Price originated the role of Charley Kringas in the Prince/Sondheim show Merrily We Roll Along on Broadway.

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