Here We Are, by Stephen Sondheim and others.

This is being touted as Stephen Sondheim’s last musical, but it is not. The last musical he wrote which reached Broadway was Assassins. He wrote another musical which was called Road Show out of town and Bounce when it made it to the public theatre. This, which I saw last night, was an idea that never went anywhere beyond the first act. The second act has a single song and is basically a play version of Luis Bunuel’s movie “The Exterminating Angel.” The first act is more complete, musically, and is entirely based on Bunuel’s movie, “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise.”

I’m not really sure why they decided to stage this unfinished mess. Even before they had a couple of staged readings, Sondheim had already stated in 2006 that he could no longer create.

And it’s apparent. I think if he had wanted to finish this, he would have. The first announcement that he was going to collaborate with David Ives was in 2014. There was a staged reading in 2016. Work stopped for awhile and then another reading with Nathan Lane and Bernadette Peters took place in 2019. Sondheim died in 2021 and then some producers and Joe Mantello decided to mount it in 2023. But why? It’s not finished. There’s very little music. But essentially I don’t think Sondheim or David Ives really got to the core of why this musical should exist. They might have, when the music was done and edits were made. The movies are clearly a criticism of wealth and bourgeois people. But this doesn’t come through, at least in the staging. In the exterminating angel part, you don’t get the sense that these people could leave through a wide open door but are unable to for no apparent reason. Eventually, in the movie, they accept that they can’t leave — that they are trapped. And once they have accepted their imprisonment, they become vicious and violent (in the movie). In this, they just are. They don’t deteriorate into violence and ruthlessness. They aren’t elevated. The young couple who kills themselves in the movie only joke about it in this staged version. Everything that was “Bunuel,” about the movie is lost in this staging, and at the end I really couldn’t say what I had watched. I watched a staged reading of a play that cost more than $100.

Now David Hyde Pierce was very good, and in the second act there was a lovely song called, “It’s the end of the world,” (as we know it) (I think.) Bobby Canavale and Denis O’Hare were also extremely good. Bobby Canavale, in fact, has gotten to be so much better of an actor than he was at the beginning of his career, it’s quite exciting to see.

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