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Elizabeth Stanley, Kelly Jeanne Grant, and Angel Desai from ''Company''

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Premieres on February 20, 2008 on PBS
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Legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim's groundbreaking musical "Company" -- which premiered in 1970 with a book by George Furth and a cast including Broadway luminaries Dean Jones (later replaced by Larry Kert), Elaine Stritch, and Donna McKechnie -- has continually acquired generations of fans through various regional productions as well as a Broadway revival in 1995. Centering on Bobby, a confirmed bachelor celebrating his 35th birthday with his 10 closest friends (who also happen to be five couples), "Company" culminates in Bobby's transformation from unattached swinger to tentative monogamist. In 2006, acclaimed director John Doyle -- noted for his unconventional adaptation of "Sweeney Todd" in 2005 (where the actors double as orchestra musicians) -- took a similar approach to "Company"'s third turn on the Broadway stage, receiving rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. Recorded at the end of its Tony®-winning run as "Best Revival" in the 2006-07 season, "Company" comes to television for the first time, starring Broadway sensation Raúl Esparza in the role of Bobby, and featuring all of the score's Sondheim classics, including "Another Hundred People," "The Ladies Who Lunch," and "Being Alive."

Stephen Sondheim explains one aspect of "Company" that made it controversial when it premiered in 1970 in this excerpt from a 1999 interview for the PBS series BROADWAY: THE AMERICAN MUSICAL.

"Musicals for decades have had ... no doubts about the efficacy of a happy ending. And that if you find the right person you may go [on] a bumpy road, rocky road of love, ... but it would always lead to bliss. It would lead to the so-called happy ending. We were saying something ambiguous, which is, actually there are no endings; it keeps going on. And it's always difficult to make a contact with, commit, and live with somebody, and at the same time, it's impossible not to. But it's never going to be easy, and it's never going to be solved, because it's not a problem that has a solution. It's not even a problem -- it's just what life is."

Learn more about "Company," a show that broke the traditional rules of musical theater, and the concept musical in the essay by contributor Thomas Hischak. Find all the musical numbers from the show in the song list, and watch an excerpt of the opening number,"Company." Read a biography of Stephen Sondheim in the Multimedia Presentation: Encyclopedia of Composers & Songwriters.

Special funding for "Company" was provided by Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment and the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust.

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Top banner photo: Elizabeth Stanley, Kelly Jeanne Grant, and Angel Desai from "Company." (credit: Joe Sinnott -- Thirteen/WNET)

Raúl Esparza as Robert (credit: Joe Sinnott -- Thirteen/WNET)
photo: Raúl Esparza as Robert (credit: Joe Sinnott -- Thirteen/WNET)

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The Sondheim Review

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