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Great Performances: Stephen Sondheim’s Company With The New York Philharmonic

Airs Friday, November 8, 2013 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: The cast from "Stephen Sondheim's Company With The New York Philharmonic."

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), Aaron 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 Friday, November 8, 2013 on THIRTEEN’s GREAT PERFORMANCES, as part of the 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’ 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.

"Stephen Sondheim’s Company With The New York Philharmonic" is directed for stage and television by Lonny Price, and produced for the stage by Price and Matt Cowart. For television, Ellen M. Krass is producer, with Stewart F. Lane, Bonnie Comley, Eric Duke, Evelyn McGee and Malin Yhr as executive producers, and Marty Granoff and Ted Snowdon as co-executive producers. For GREAT PERFORMANCES, Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.

GREAT PERFORMANCES is on Facebook.

Video

Great Performances: Stephen Sondheim's Company With The New York Philharmonic Preview

Above: Legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking musical "Company" centers on Bobby, a confirmed bachelor celebrating his 35th birthday with his 10 closest friends (five couples). This 2011 New York Philharmonic concert production starring Neil Patrick Harris as Bobby won rave reviews. Harris’ co-stars include Patti LuPone, Stephen Colbert, Christina Hendricks, Anika Noni Rose, Jon Cryer and Martha Plimpton performing the show’s many Sondheim standards.

The Opening Song, "Company"

Stephen Sondheim's "Company" in a concert-setting with the New York Philharmonic. The opening number includes the entire all-star cast: Craig Bierko, Stephen Colbert, Jon Cryer, Katie Finneran, Neil Patrick Harris, Christina Hendricks, Adam Lazar, Patti LuPone, Jill Paice, Martha Plimpton, Anika Noni Rose, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Jim Walton, and Chryssie Whitehead.