Sag Harbor Cinema continues its yearlong Pennebaker/Hegedus Retrospective with “Original Cast Album: ‘Company,’” a documentary that gives insight into the recording album of the musical that secured Sondheim’s professional credibility, garnered a record-setting 14 Tony nominations and ended up the winner in six categories, including best musical, best score and best lyrics. The film begins screening at the cinema on October 23.
Unavailable to the public for years, “Company,” will be screened with “Original Cast Album: Co-Op,” a parody of Pennebaker’s legendary film created by Documentary Now! a mockumentary series. The parody features a musical cast that is in the middle of their recording day when they find out their show is getting shut down.
On October 24, following the 7 p.m. screening, SHC will host a Q&A with Chris Hegedus, Frazer Pennebaker and author/producer Ted Chapin (who was present at the original recording) moderated by the cinema’s founding artistic director, Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan.
“With the reopening of Broadway, a new production of Sondheim’s 1970 musical starting its previews on November 15 and the release of this great, new restoration of the film, the timing could not be more perfect,” says D’Agnolo Vallan. “I am incredibly excited to share Company with our audience.”
Pennebaker captured the cast and Sondheim at work in an unobtrusive, yet intimate way, during a grueling 15 hour day. The Guardian’s review of this rerelease details the filmmaker’s unprecedented access to the recording session:
“Pennebaker’s film, running just under an hour, is revelatory in getting under the skin of the main players. And the director’s opening revelation will exasperate musical-theatre nerds as we hear that this was the pilot for a whole series on original cast recordings that never got made.”
Elaine Stritch, a longtime resident of Sag Harbor, later recalled Pennebaker’s camera movement as “up and down the wazoo.” Stritch offers a show stopping performance of “The Ladies Who Lunch” at the end of the recording day, giving “Company” its superb final act.
“I’ve always felt slightly resentful of the fact that nobody took me seriously as a composer, only as a lyric writer,” Sondheim tells Pennebaker.
“Company” was Sondheim’s opportunity to show the musical theater world that he could change the form. The recording is a vital tradition on Broadway, potentially increasing audiences through a successful distribution of the album. The stakes for everyone involved are high, as cultural critic Mark Harris put it, “The sense that everybody on camera has something to prove pervades ‘Original Cast Album: “Company”’ and generates a remarkable level of suspense.”
Sag Harbor Cinema is located at 90 Main Street, Sag Harbor. For tickets go to sagharborcinema.org.