CD reviews: `Company,’ “Sterling Ovations’

There’s a whole realm of local show business we don’t get to see unless our company throws a big shindig and hires an entertainment provider like Clark Sterling’s Sterling Performances.

For the last 15 years, Sterling — a veteran of Les Miserables and numerous other shows — has been working with a stable of local performers to provide show tune pizzazz to corporate events, concerts and special occasions.

The only problem with finding success in this corporate realm is that too often theater enthusiasts aren’t able to enjoy the fruits of Oakland-based Sterling’s labors.

Being the generous man he is, Sterling has produced a new CD, “Sterling Ovations: The Best of Broadway with Clark Sterling & Company.”

“I decided it was time to share these terrific vocalists, musicians and songs with a broader audience,” Sterling says.

The CD, which is available at, features Sterling along with Danielle Bixby, Jesse Bradman, Elizabeth Ann Campisi, Susan Himes-Powers, Michelle Jordan, Jonathan Poretz, Stephanie Rhoads and Michael Taylor.

Musical directors Cesar Cancino and Ross Gualco venture just far enough away from the tried-and-true Broadway arrangements to make even chestnuts like “Ya Got Trouble” and “All That Jazz” fresh.

This is a great showcase for some truly wonderful local talent and is Sterling’s best CD yet.

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The next best thing to seeing a Broadway musical is listening to the cast album.

To these ears, nothing will ever supplant 1970’s original cast recording of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Company as the definitive take on Sondheim’s brash, bitter, brilliant songs.

Well, there’s a new, mostly well-received Company on Broadway right now, and it has been Doyled, which is to say director John Doyle has done what is fast becoming his usual trick: there’s no orchestra per se. All the actors play their own instruments, which makes for an intriguing CD experience: we’re hearing the show, but missing it at the same time.

The new cast recording from Nonesuch/PS Classics gives us much more dialogue, so we get a real sense of just how icy and sharp this show really is. The dialogue interruptions can mar a song like “Another Hundred People,” but the talky chunks can also serve as a great bridge, as between “The Ladies Who Lunch” and the finale, “Being Alive.”

Raul Esparza, who stars as birthday boy Bobby, gives a full-throttle performance (especially on “Mary Me a Little,” cut from the original show but now restored), but he strains his way through some of the material like “Someone Is Waiting.”

The new orchestrations (by Mary-Mitchell Campbell) focus more attention on Sondheim’s incisive, often funny lyrics, which is a good thing. But no matter how much I enjoy the new recording, I find myself longing for the groovy ’70s vibe of the original.

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