Steven Pasquale has been working on Here We Are for seven years and last night, at the opening night for Stephen Sondheim's final musical, all he could express was relief. "I'm really happy and proud that we crossed the finish line. We're really tired," he admitted to Playbill.
Here We Are has been in development by Sondheim and book writer David Ives for a decade. After Sondheim's death, Ives and director Joe Mantello finished the work, which is based on two films from avant-garde filmmaker Luis Buñuel: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and The Exterminating Angel (1962). Here We Are opened October 22 at Off-Broadway's The Shed, where it will run until January 21, 2024. Read what the critics have to say here.
In the musical, a group of rich individuals try to find a place to have brunch. After many unsuccessful attempts that take them well into the evening, they finally find a place to eat, but then discover that they can't leave the establishment because, well, the world is ending.
For Denis O'Hare, Here We Are is the third Sondheim show he's ever done (though he said he gave an "awful, awful, awful audition" audition for Passion). In the show, O'Hare plays a series of waiters, in a succession of crazier wigs, who are not what they seem. Which is a good way to sum up the musical as a whole. "This whole project has been sort of shrouded in mystery. It's an unknown thing. It's a weird piece. It's based on truly bizarre source material," he explains. "We're super proud of what we've done. We've put up there a risky, crazy, compelling, shocking thing. And I love that."
See the cast take their opening night bows below. And scroll to read more about the opening night coverage of Here We Are.
A typical opening night consists of a red carpet. But the carpet last night was notably turquoise; it was a reference to the turquoise negligee that one of the affluent main characters wears through the entire show. But it was also a sign of how special the evening was. Here We Are boasts an ensemble cast of musical theatre all-stars. Besides Pasquale and O'Hare, the cast also includes Francois Battiste, Tracie Bennett, Bobby Cannavale, Micaela Diamond, Amber Gray, Jin Ha, Rachel Bay Jones, David Hyde Pierce, and Jeremy Shamos. Understudies Bradley Dean, Adam Harrington, Bligh Voth, Adante Carter, Mehry Eslaminia, and Lindsay Nicole Chambers round out the company.
Though many of these actors are beloved and experienced, with numerous awards under their collective belts, the prospect of originating a role in a new Sondheim show was thrilling.
Micaela Diamond auditioned for Here We Are while she was in the middle of doing Parade on Broadway. It was a secretive process; Diamond says she had to sign an NDA before she could see the script. "It was such a weird show. I couldn't put the script down," she says of her first reactions to reading it. For her audition, she sang "The Miller's Son" from A Little Night Music. "The next morning, I got a call that I got it. I texted my mom saying, 'I'm originating a Sondheim role!' What a gift." Diamond plays Fritz, the only person in the lunch bunch who isn't rich, and who longs to put the wealthy in their place.
We asked the cast of Here We Are, and the opening night attendees, which of them would survive the end of the world. See the video below.
Though Sondheim was not in the room for this rehearsal period, the cast report that they were encouraged by the creative team to collaborate. Together, the group has been working hard to find the tone and the heart of this tricky piece.
When asked if he had any questions for Sondheim, Jin Ha (who plays a soldier who falls in love with Fritz) shook his head. "If I had questions for him...I'm gonna say no. Because I've learned growing up and studying musical theatre, that all of the answers are in there already. They're in the music, they're in the lyrics. They're in the notes. Trust, trust that."
See photos of the cast and the attendees of the Here We Are opening night below.
Here We Are features choreography by Sam Pinkleton, set and costume design by David Zinn, lighting design by Natasha Katz, sound design by Tom Gibbons, orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, music direction and supervision by Alexander Gemignani, hair design by Robert Pickens and Katie Gell, and casting by The Telsey Office. Tom Kirdahy, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, and The Stephen Sondheim Trust are producing, with Oscar Arce serving as associate producer. The Shed is the production's co-presenter.