‘Sweating out the notes’: the stunning portrait of Sondheim’s Company by DA Pennebaker
A newly rereleased documentary captures tense scenes in the studio for the 1970 musical’s original cast recording – and reveals much about the songs and their singers
After a six-week tryout in Boston and a week of previews, Stephen Sondheim’s Company opened on Broadway in April 1970. But after the nerves of opening night, another hurdle came the following weekend: the original cast recording of the musical. Rather than spend Sunday recuperating, the cast and musicians gathered for a tense 15-hour studio session to create the album.
Shows change from night to night, even from matinee to evening; part of theatre’s magic is the alchemy of the two or three hours you spend in that particular company of audience and performers. But the album of a musical was – and, in many cases, still is despite the rise of NT Live – its testament. With the stakes that high, it is surprising that film-maker DA Pennebaker and his crew were allowed through the door of the Columbia 30th Street studio to make a documentary about the recording.