The One Elaine Stritch Performance You Need To Watch Right Now


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Broadway legend Elaine Stritch, who died Thursday at 89, was known for many iconic performances, none of them more indelible than "Ladies Who Lunch" from Stephen Sondheim's Company. But Stritch, never a "great" singer, sometimes struggled with the song.

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In director D.A. Pennebaker's 1970 documentary about the making of the original Broadway cast recording of Company, Stritch famously struggled through take after take.

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The sequence is an uncommonly revealing look into Stritch’s hard-knuckle process, and how she was often her own fiercest critic.

Stritch asked for three more takes.

Leacock-Pennebaker / Via

Sondheim agreed, but he was wary. "Your voice is tired," he said. "I want to be sure that we get, you know — this is the permanent recording. Therefore, it's important."

Indeed, Stritch's subsequent takes proved to be a struggle.

Stritch's performance here is far from perfect, especially for a cast recording. And yet she is still an electrifying performer — you can feel her desperation, both as the character in the song and the actress fighting against a voice that won't deliver what she needs.

By the eighth take, everyone's nerves were fried, and Shepard made a particularly stinging request of Stritch.

Leacock-Pennebaker / Via

Stritch, her voice exhausted, had relied too much on speak-singing the song, and Shepard was having none of it.

Her final attempt was her worst, and everyone knew it.

Leacock-Pennebaker / Via

They only had their orchestra for that one recording session. So Sondheim and Shepard sent Stritch home and laid down a clean orchestral version of the song that Stritch could sing along to by herself a few days later after her voice had rested.

Just because, here's a fabulous video of Stritch performing the full song.

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We will miss you, Elaine. Here's a toast to you.

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