The Sheer Beauty and Greatness of Here We Are
Posted by: peter3053 01:08 am EST 11/24/23
In reply to: re: Here We Are and Shucked Yesterday - showtunetrivia 02:44 pm EST 11/23/23

I predict HERE WE ARE will become revered as one of Sondheim's greatest, most integrated works. Act One feels almost as if he wrote a film score, a perpetual motion sort of piece, where dialogue, song and underscoring arrive each in perfect complentarity to each other.

The boldness of having the singing (but not the music) evaporating in Act Two, even if partially caused by age, is in keeping with the "content dictates form" dictate of his entire career.

Also, the choices are so right - the horrible rich characters have little to sing because, well, they have so little feeling that they have any need. (They do have needs, but are unaware.) Yet what they sing is a delight, and there are wonderful moments for other characters all around them in their quest for food.

I feel that the show will be seen as a way for later generations to unlock the underlying concerns of Sondheim in most of his other shows; this is his most direct and profound confrontation with the nature of human existence, the very essence of what it means to be human in so mysterious a world. ("Crazy business this, this life we're living" as he wrote so long ago in Anyone Can Whistle).

Everything from the value of a human job, to the variety of experiences of human love or what seems like love, to the hideous banality of socio-economic gluttony, to the question of human identity ("It is what it is" - and yet, it is always caught in a passing tumble of uncertainty) to the question of what is essential for the stability of civilisation - both the good and the bad of those necessities - is here.

It is a remarkable, remarkable work, and David Ives is equal to the dimensions of the task of the show.

There is, for me, one quibble. In the first act, the Bishop is not untutored in his profession, only disillusioned because of the faithlessness of the world around him which makes him feel redundant. (His complaints about God are common enough even for one in his job.)

Yet in the second act, when delivering his speech about the nature of being, he has really very little professional to say - and he speaks like an outsider to his own religious tradition. As a believing bishop, which he is according to his earlier song (which is very funny in itself), he would have enough wherewithal to draw on Augustine or Aquinas amongst others who have said remarkable things about the nature of time and human existence, things that are still mind-blowing, and would have brought greater consolation to the trapped.

The room is a microcosm of the cosmos in this play - and if there's one thing a bishop would know, it's fascinating and uplifting philosophy about the greatest of all mysteries. I even recall an astonishing thing St Peter wrote in a letter, about businessmen "here today and disappearing like a mist" tomorrow - which is virtually the theme of the whole show (not that the show is religious in any particular way.)

Having said that, the speech itself is delightful...but rings false for the character as established. Even a few words of received wisdom from his tradition would have set that detail right.

But it is a quibble.

HERE WE ARE (even its title) is redolent with thought about the ironies of wealth, love, life itself.

"With So Little to be Sure of...", "Being Alive", "George too may fade/leaving no mark..." ... "We die but we don't..."

The themes of Sondheim's career are profoundly, and yet hilariously and delightfully, woven into the fabric of HERE WE ARE, possibly his most, in the deepest sense, integrated work.

"It is what it is."

Thanksgiving to Mr Sondheim - and to David Ives.
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