Here We Are and Shucked Yesterday
Last Edit: BillEadie 01:52 pm EST 11/23/23
Posted by: BillEadie 01:51 pm EST 11/23/23

On Thanksgiving Eve, I did a double: I saw “Here We Are,” Stephen Sondheim’s last musical, at The Shed and then I saw “Shucked,” the Jack O’Brien-directed musical comedy, at the Nederlander Theatre. Each was interesting in its own way.

“Here We Are” was begun by Mr. Sondheim, and was left unfinished at his death. David Ives and Joe Mantello stepped in to provide a production for which a world premiere could be given, Mr. Ives as author of the book, and Mr. Mantello as director and shaper of the performance.

An insight for these artists seemed to be that Mr. Sondheim loved both puzzles and mysteries. “Here We Are” was inspired by the films of Luis Bunuel, and is divided into two parts. Act 1 is titled “The Road” and tells the story of a group of friends trying in vain to go to brunch together. Act 2 is titled “The Room” and finds the same group of individuals trapped in a room together from which they can’t escape (shades of Sartre’s “No Exit”).

While there are no musical numbers listed in the program, there is a 13-piece orchestra playing what is credited to Alexander Gemignani as “Music Supervision and Additional Arrangements. (Jonathan Tunick is credited with the orchestrations). These artistic contributions add up to a good deal of Musical underscoring that accompanies the actors’ interesting and well-directed performances.

For me, the standout among those performances was that of David Hyde Pierce, whose character was called “Bishop.” His character evolved from a person who professed in Act 1 that he wasn’t certain who he was and what he was doing to a person who provided comfort and succor to the others in the room in Act 2.

The future of “Here We Are” seems uncertain, but I hope that the engagement at The Shed will lead to continued interest in this puzzling but thoroughly engaging work.

In the evening, I saw something completely different, a musical with a book by Robert Horn that seemed to have been inspired by the television series, “Hee Haw,” set to a Broadway/country score by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally. Director O’Brien encouraged his cast to emphasize the many double entendres in the script, and the production featured not only cast members playing roles but also a couple of cast members (Ashley D. Kelley and Grey Henson) who were specifically labeled as “Storytellers” and who both narrated and commented on the actions of the other characters.

While I groaned at some of the jokes, and laughed out loud at others, and I thoroughly appreciated the many charms of “Shucked.”

Bill, traveling home to San Diego the day after Thanksgiving
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