I was raised on musicals and in the theatre and I am so here for this.

united states, 1970, english


Original Cast Album: “Company”

Update: I did not put any thought into the timing of this essay. I don’t write on any kind of schedule. When I finish writing the next one I post the previous one. All that is to say, Stephen Sondheim passed away today at the age of 91. Somehow it seems fitting that, in my own tiny way, I accidentally made this tribute to his genius.

I could understand someone for whom this film is a trifle. It’s under an hour long, it’s about the making of a cast album for a Broadway show, it’s mostly just people singing songs. For me, it is monumental. I can thank my mother for that one.

My mother grew up in Westchester County, just outside New York City. As a birthday gift each year she was taken to a Broadway show, and, crucially, gifted the Original Cast Album from that show. I grew up in a house where all of those cast albums had been lovingly kept. I devoured them. I still know all the words to so many shows.

I grew up as a theatre kid. I was incredibly fortunate to spend a portion of my youth in Palo Alto, CA, home to the phenomenal Children’s Theater. I was in my first play at 11, in maybe 30 or so overall, and spent four consecutive summers attending a conservatory there. I lived in that place.

All of that is to say that this was very much my thing. I loved every second of it. As it was playing I had two thoughts, one was how much I loved it, and the other was how impressed I was at how nice and gentle everyone was being. This was a tremendously stressful moment, and I was so surprised and delighted that it was handled so pleasantly.

I wonder what that says about me and my own days in the theatre? Because as far as I can tell, I am singularly alone in this reading of the film. Even the producer of the record himself later profusely apologized for his behavior. Was my own experience so brutal, or have I just been jaded by too many stories of horrific set conditions on auteur-directed films?