Photo of the company by Emilio Madrid
Stephen Sondheim’s legacy continues to live on after his death, now most immediately in the opening of his unfinished and final musical, Here We Are, based on two Luis Buñuel films and now playing at The Shed. David Ives contributes the book and Joe Mantello directs what many critics are heralding as a sleek production.
For New York Magazine, Sara Holdren wrote, “There’s no blurring of the composer-lyricist’s inimitable, agile and angular forms, no blunting of his wit, no comfort in nostalgia. The play has sharp, savage urges, springing from its sense of injustice. When it wobbles, and it does so increasingly as it goes along, it’s not because it began without a clear proposition: It’s because the logical conclusion of its premise is in fact so dark, so extreme, that you can feel the opposing, more compassionate (or at least more ambivalent) instincts of the show’s creators kicking back at it — stalling, equivocating, looking for alternative exits.”
The production also earned praise: “David Zinn’s cavernous, gleaming white box of a set—which is being performatively cleaned by people in service uniforms before the play begins—will become a kind of hellmouth: opening up to belch forth Act Two’s enormous, gilded prison of a drawing room.”
Adam Feldman gave the musical four stars in Time Out, writing, “The aggrieved would-be diners wind up spending the entire first act of Here We Are in a literally fruitless quest to be fed, and some audiences at this collaboration between the playwright David Ives and the composer Stephen Sondheim may feel similarly confused and undernourished. Yet I should say up front that I enjoyed it very much. Sondheim’s final musical is not quite a full meal—not, at least, as a Sondheim musical per se—but how could it be? After working on the show sporadically for a decade or so, the irreplaceable Broadway auteur died in 2021, having written a fair amount for the first half but not very much for the second.”
And for The New York Times, Jesse Green awarded the show a Critic’s Pick. “In Joe Mantello’s breathtakingly chic and shapely production, with a cast of can-you-top-this Broadway treasures, it is never less than a pleasure to watch as it confidently polishes and embraces its illogic. Musically, it’s fully if a little skimpily Sondheim, and entirely worthy of his catalog. That it is also a bit cold, only occasionally moving in the way that song would ideally allow, may speak to the reason he had so much trouble writing it,” the critic wrote.
Here We Are runs through January 21 at the Shed; visit theshed.org for more info.