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Original Cast Album: Company Criterion Blu-ray Review

“Original Cast Album: Company” is another gem from D.A. Pennebaker.

Originally planned as a pilot episode for a proposed series about original Broadway cast recording sessions, 1970’s 53 minute “Original Cast Album: Company”  documentary takes a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of the cast album for the original Broadway musical version of “Company” (which was created by the legendary composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and playwright George Furth). In addition to interviews with Sondheim and Furth, viewers get insight into the recording process as well as seeing live takes of songs. 

Directed by the late famed documentarian D.A. Pennebaker (perhaps best known for “Don’t Look Back” and “Monterey Pop”) , “Original Cast Album: Company” is a riveting look at the exhaustive marathon recording process of a Broadway cast album. Even if you know nothing about “Company” or musicals in general, the raw behind-the-scenes look at the trials and tribulations of recording is nothing short of captivating. Not only do you get to see everyone from the record producer to the singers working in a high pressure situation (complete with lots of smoking), but you get to see some electric moments such as Dean Jones beautifully belting out “Being Alive” and a tired Elaine Stritch giving her all trying to record in the early morning hours.

Truth be told, it’s a real shame the series was never made as it would have been such a fascinating glimpse into the world of Broadway soundtrack recordings (not to mention an amazing time capsule). Still, I’m glad we got to see this pilot as we were able to bear witness to a piece of Broadway music history in a way that only Pennebaker could show us.

On a side note, check out the 2011 recorded version of “Company” with Neil Patrick Harris and Stephen Colbert if you haven’t. If only that was included as an extra!


Presentation: 1.33:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital transfer definitely maintains that grainy 70’s look while also providing a new hi-def upgrade.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? Expect a crisp audio experience.

* A booklet with photos, credits and an essay by film historian/journalist Mark Harris.
* A 2001 commentary by D.A. Pennebaker, Harold Prince and Elaine Stritch.
* A new solo commentary by Stephen Sondheim who provides more context about creating “Company.”
* A new interview between author Ted Chapin and orchestrator/composer Jonathan Tunick. Tunick talks about his musical career and “Company.”
* An episode of the TV series “Documentary Now!” called “Co-Op” which is a spoof of this movie.
* “Documentary Now! Conversation”- Remote interviews with cast and crew members of “Co-Op” including John Mulaney.
* Extra excerpts from a 2000 interview between D.A. Pennebaker and Harold Prince and Elaine Stritch.
* “Side By Side”- A nearly 30 minute remotely recorded interview with orchestrator/composer Jonathan Tunick and Stephen Sondheim and moderated by critic/producer Frank Rich. Along with Sondheim’s commentary, this is the best extra. 

August 16, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , ,

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