Life x Four: Now. Here. This., From the Makers of [title of show], Opens March 28
By Kenneth Jones
Now. Here. This., the new work from the creators and cast of the cult-hit Broadway musical [title of show], opens March 28 in its world premiere by Off-Broadway's Vineyard Theatre. The highly personal revue, which includes autobiographical elements from the players, was recently extended to April 22.
The Vineyard presented a developmental lab production of the show in 2011. Previews for this full production began March 7.
Using a visit to the Museum of Natural History as a loose frame in which to focus ideas about living in the moment and embracing "more life," Now. Here. This. has a book Hunter Bell and Susan Blackwell, with music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen. It's based on a collaboration by Hunter Bell, Michael Berresse, Susan Blackwell, Heidi Blickenstaff, Jeff Bowen and Larry Pressgrove. They all previously collaborated on the Tony-nominated musical [title of show], which debuted at The Vineyard (after development in the New York Musical Theatre Festival) in 2006 prior to its run on Broadway two years later.
Performed by Bell, Blackwell, Blickenstaff and Bowen, Now. Here. This. is directed and choreographed by Berresse.
Bell told Playbill magazine, "It's an exploration of stories from our lives. The thrust is: What does it mean to be present in your life? We investigate things from the past, hold them up to the light and see if, by doing so, we can be more in our life — but with a lot of fun songs and dances and jokes. It asks questions that, not just the four of us but perhaps the audience, too, wrestle with: 'What does it mean to be quote-unquote happy?' 'How do you enjoy your life in this modern world?'"
The genesis of the show began with new material the quartet created for appearances at benefits. "There was one event in particular where we developed a piece called 'My First Time' for Gypsy of the Year three years ago," Blickenstaff explained. "It was about Hunter and Susan seeing their very first Broadway show, and Jeff and I kinda supported as a Greek chorus. It was a very satisfying piece to develop, and a lot of people took that ride with us. That, I think, was the very beginning of Now. Here. This. That piece was in the show, but, as Now. Here. This. continued to grow, we let go of it and developed from there. We really enjoyed this storytelling direct-address way of performing."
Don't expect meta-theatrical references to their lives as theatre people, which was part of the fun of [title of show]. Blackwell said, "We're making a conscious effort, in the hopes of making it as universal as possible and still remaining specific, of focusing on our experiences as people and not just as performers."
Bowen said, "We are telling stories that are, as we say, 'autofictionography.' We have somewhat lived through these moments. Then, suddenly, to not just retell the story but to retell it in a song — it's very odd."
Vocal arrangements are by Jeff Bowen and Larry Pressgrove. Orchestrations are by Larry Pressgrove and Rob Preuss. Musical direction is by Larry Pressgrove. Howard Joines is music coordinator.
The work is billed this way by Vineyard: "The six original [title of show] collaborators are back and all delving into life's big questions with inimitable humor and humanity. The show explores birds, bees, reptiles, early man, ancient civilizations, and outer space. Also, loneliness, friendship, hoarding, hiding, laughing, living and dying. And middle school. And dinosaurs. The piece explores what goes down in the space between the past and the future, and how the universe conspires to bring people together."
The design team for Now. Here. This. is Neil Patel (scenic design), Gregory Gale (costume design), Jeff Croiter and Grant Yeager (lighting design), Acme Sound Partners (sound design) and Richard DiBella (projection design). Martha Donaldson is production stage manager.
[title of show] debuted Off-Broadway at The Vineyard in February 2006. In 2008, it opened on Broadway, with The Vineyard as a producing partner. Bell earned a 2009 Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical for [title of show].
Now. Here. This. is scheduled to run to April 22 on the following schedule: Tuesdays at 7 PM, Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM.
For more information or to become a member of Vineyard Theatre, go to www.vineyardtheatre.org or call the box office at (212) 353-0303.
Douglas Aibel is artistic director of the Vineyard Theatre; Jennifer Garvey-Blackwell is executive producer; Sarah Stern is co-artistic director; and Rebecca Habel is managing director.
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