Thursday, November 2, 2023

Sondheim's last musical, Here We Are. Not the crowning achievement of a great career.

Have you ever thought, Wow. I wish there were a musical based on the surrealist movies of Luis Buñuel – “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972) is a sunny romp about a group of friends who, seeking a meal, are mysteriously unable to find one. “The Exterminating Angel” (1962) is a much darker affair, about a dinner party no one can leave – then you are in luck.

Or not.

While some outlets, with a love of Stephen Sondheim (it was completed posthumously), tried to make it sound interesting. It is not. Or they tried to make it sound good. It is not. Or they tried to make it sound like the deceased Sondheim – who famously workshopped his music while creating the shows – sound  like his last songs were handed down from high. They were not.

Instead, you have a fantastic cast, including Bobby Cannavale and David Hyde Pierce, as well as Broadway stars Rachel Bay Jones, Amber Gray, and Steven Pasquale, pretty much trying desperately to breathe life into a corpse. And they succeed. Just like Dr. Frankenstein breathed life into the monster.
Only this monster is manic in their attempt to make the audience laugh at jokes that are not funny and listen to music that only a sadistic dentist could love.

I did not like it. The only reasonably relatable character is David Hyde Pierce’s sad Bishop with a foot fetish played for laughs. Really.

The first half is a mad dash around a pure white stage, with restaurants arriving and disappearing with annoying regularity. The second half is a tortuous dinner party at a luxurious Embassy where no one can leave. Until they can.

Once they get to leave the Embassy, the audience is thrilled – we are soon to be out of this purgatory, and we will be able to exit with them. Only for the white box and a reprise of a horrible song to reappear as we are trying to get our jackets.

A standing ovation occurs here in a slow-motion wave. As people in the front stand, we slowly do the same in a sad, vertical “wave” – as we reach under the seats for our coats.

We ride down a long set of escalators (the theater is on level 6) in stunned silence. And then someone has the temerity to say, “I’m not sure I liked that”. The entire escalator suddenly chats about the show, not positive terms. It is like the kid and the Emperor’s new clothes.

Well, that was an experience. Luckily I have stopped reviewing so I don’t have to find something I liked (although Rachel Bay Jones was actually lovely in the role).
Don’t think you’re missing out.

Amazing cast below

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