PBS Great Performances: Neil Patrick Harris is great ‘Company’

Neil Patrick Harris and Stephen Sondheim. Need I say more?  This Friday, “Great Performances” presents a concert staging of Sondheim’s “Company” at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in New York with the New York Philharmonic .

Harris leads the cast as the confirmed bachelor Bobby, who is celebrating his 35th birthday with ten of this closest friends–off of whom are paired up and married–although not for long. The cast includes Craig Bierko (as Peter), Stephen Colbert (as Harry), Jon Cryer (as David), Katie Finneran (as Amy), 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).

“Company” premiered on Broadway in 1970 and was nominated for 14 Tony Award, winning six: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Original Music, Best Original Lyrics, Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design.  The musical was revised by Furth and Sondheim two decades later.

I was fortunate enough to see Harris in person on stage–once in “Rent” and another time in “Romeo and Juliet.” That was before his career had a revival and he became the renaissance man of our times. If you couldn’t be there for this performance, don’t miss this PBS special.

Harris, under the direction of Lonny Price, has impeccable timing. He’s by turns, lonely, lecherous, bemused, frightened and desperate. Seeing Colbert as the recovering alcoholic Harry and LuPone as the much-married lush Joanne is priceless. “Company” is one of those musicals that doesn’t lose that much when it is stripped down for a concert staging because it consists of so many scenes in so many different places–the homes of all the friends, a wedding venue and local hotspots. As far as concerts go, the set and costumes make this one of the more upscale productions.

Friday, November 8 at 9 p.m. on THIRTEEN’s Great Performances, as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival. (Check local listings.)

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