The Criterion Collection releases D.A. Pennebaker's theatrical documentary Original Cast Album: Company August 17, for the first time in HD on Blu-ray—as well as on DVD after years of being out-of-print. The film captures the recording sessions for the original Broadway cast album of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's landmark 1970 musical Company. Preview the new restored and remastered HD release of the film above, with a special clip of Elaine Stritch singing what would become her signature song, "The Ladies Who Lunch."
Stritch's performance of the number unintentionally becomes the climax of the film. Left to the end of the recording session, Stritch doesn't begin putting the number down until well after 3 AM. The famously neurotic performer has somewhat of a breakdown as nerves, exhaustion, and a night of drinking catch up with her, making it impossible to get a proper recording of the song. Stritch ultimately returns two days later to record the vocal to pre-recorded accompaniment by the show's orchestra, which is the take that ended up on the album.
The film has received a restored 4k digital transfer, supervised by Chris Hegedus and Nate Pennebaker, which serves as the source for both the Blu-ray and DVD releases. Along with the film, the discs include a number of newly produced bonus features, including a feature-length audio commentary by Sondheim; a conversation between Sondheim, orchestrator Jonathan Tunick, and critic Frank Rich; an interview with Tunick led by author and theatre historian Ted Chapin, and an audio commentary with Pennebaker, Stritch, and Prince created for the film's 2001 DVD release and some never-before-heard audio excerpts from this commentary's recording session.
The disc will also include Original Cast Album: Co-Op, the 2019 episode of Documentary Now! that parodied Pennebaker's film. WIth performances from John Mulaney, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Richard Kind, Alex Brightman, Paula Pell, and more, the episode sees the cast of a fictional musical gathering to record its cast album just after learning that its run has been prematurely cut short following dismal reviews. A 2020 reunion of the cast and crew for this episode will be included as well.
Company centers on the perpetually single Bobby on his 35th birthday and his married friends, all of whom seem to want him to settle down. The Best Musical Tony Award-winning work was one of the first so-called "concept" musicals to be a big success on Broadway, in that it lacked a linear plot in favor of a collection of thematically linked vignettes.
With a score introducing such tunes as "Sorry-Grateful," "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," "Another Hundred People," "Barcelona," and "Being Alive," Company also firmly established Sondheim as a musical theatre powerhouse. The musical was the first collaboration between Sondheim and director Hal Prince, a partnership that would go on to produce a string of landmark musicals throughout the 1970s that many credit with changing the art form, including A Little Night Music, Follies, and Sweeney Todd.
The musical has continued to be a favorite among theatre fans, receiving Broadway revivals in 1995 and 2006. A new revival, re-imagined by director Marianne Elliott to center around a female protagonist, played London's West End in 2018 and was in previews for its Broadway transfer when health restrictions shut Broadway down last year. The production, starring Katrina Lenk and Patti LuPone, is set to resume performances November 15 ahead of a December 9 Broadway opening.