Hey, Zoners, I hope I haven’t kept you waiting too long for a write-up of last night’s incredible show at Avery Fisher Hall. After a long day that ended with me getting home in the wee hours of the morning, I needed a full night’s sleep and a chance to think about last night to put it into the right perspective. There’s no way I could have written anything coherent when I got home, for the simple reason that my excitement level was still so high. I may or may not have been guilty of sending DB a message that included a shameful abuse of caps and the words ‘massive flailing.’ So, yes, I needed to calm down a little bit.
First of all, I have to give a disclaimer here: I’m no theater geek. I go to shows in New York occasionally if something looks worth the ridiculous price of a ticket, but most of my recent theater-going has been in support of my nephew, who is a theater arts major at a nearby university. While I’m familiar with quite a bit of Stephen Sondheim’s work, Company is something that was off my radar until recently. I’ve never seen it before, so I have nothing to compare to last night’s performance.
I’ll start off by saying that the entire production was outstanding. This was billed as a ‘semi-staged’ performance, which meant a minimal set and not much in the way of props and costume changes. There also wasn’t a lot of room onstage for the actors since the orchestra took up most of the stage. But within those limits, it was a complete performance of the play, with all the singing, plenty of dancing, and even tumbling! And yes, all the long-time, hardcore Colbert fans would’ve recognized those tumbling moves right away. More about that later.
From his first moments on the stage, Stephen looked completely natural and at ease with his role. Anyone who was only familiar with him from the Report and who might have been looking for the character they were used to seeing on TV would have seen no sign of punditStephen at all. His big scene with Martha Plimpton and Neil Patrick Harris came very early in the play, and he did his best to get the maximum laughs from his character. The little karate demonstration that we saw in the rehearsal video and some of the photos went off hilariously, with Stephen winding up pinned to the floor a couple of times, once by Martha Plimpton and a second time by both her and NPH. That one vignette was Stephen’s longest stretch in the spotlight. For the remainder of the play, he mostly blended in with the ensemble. But the one remaining standout moment, at least for the true Colbert fans, came during the big song and dance number ‘Side-by-Side-by-Side,’ which included the entire cast. During that number, Stephen and Martha Plimpton did one of the signature moves from the tumbling routine that Stephen used to do with Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello. (They did the move that happens at about the 5:00 mark in the video.) As soon as I realized what they were doing, I laughed and started clapping in total glee, then stopped when I saw that no one around me recognized those moves. Oops. Outed myself as a geek. Oh well. They finished the abbreviated tumbling routine with Stephen holding Martha and Neil Patrick Harris in that classic pose in the photo above. Honestly, for a Colbert fan, it was a completely joyful moment.
There were so many outstanding individual performances last night that it’s hard to single out any particular one, including Stephen. As much as we love him, and as talented as we know him to be, he was onstage with performers who have much more musical theater experience than he does. Yet he kept up with the best of them quite effortlessly and gave a brilliant performance of his own. His singing was as wonderful as we know it can be, and his dancing was excellent, but his comedic abilities really shined through the brightest while he was up there. He knows how to get a laugh better than almost anyone I can think of, and it helps that he was working with some very funny material. Above all, he proved that he belonged there on the stage, that his presence was no mere stunt to pull in a crowd. If he ever wanted to make a case for himself as a potential host of the Tony Awards — or better yet, as a future musical theater star — I think he’s done that this weekend. I’m so happy that this incredible opportunity to do something so different and exciting was given to him. He proved that he’s more than up to the challenge.
There’s so much more I could say about this show, but honestly, I don’t know enough superlatives to express how wonderful and thoroughly entertaining it was. I’ll have a post with some of the reviews from the press later on, but in the meantime, I know there were other Zoners at last night’s show, so I’ll let them add their say, and I’ll chime in with more thoughts in the comments as they come to me.