Watched Company on PBS last night. It was directed by John Doyle, who did the version of Sweeney Todd that was in town a few months ago. Here again he used the device of having the company also be the orchestra. It worked much better here but I feel the structure of Company, being more episodic and using a chorus format in much of the music, supported the conceit better.
The instruments seemed less intrusive in the action, thankfully not in the performer's hands during strong emotional scenes. Instead, they were sometimes used as props, most effectively a tuba being caressed to indicate sexual desire in a seduction scene. A grand piano graces the stage and not only does it add a touch of elegance in the scenes but was only played in moments where is made sense in the story. It was in fact used to great effect in the closing number, Being Alive. In fact, most of the times the musicians were in shadow, addressing my major concern of distracting from the action which plagued Sweeney.
The other major problem I had with Sweeney was the blocking habit of having people talk to each other yet both face the stage. Again here it worked to show the distance between the different couples, and was thankfully dropped in scenes where the characters had to make strong connections with each other. It disappears in the second act, mirroring Bobby's movement towards intimacy.
It the end it was much more successful from a staging viewpoint and suspect it works much better than Hal Prince's original staging, which I've only seen stills from. The only problem I had in watching it was that Raúl Esparza, who plays Bobby, looked like a slightly older, slightly wider, Sergio di Zio. It was like I was watching Sergio play the role. Their mannerisms and expressions were identical. It was surreal.