We take a look at what is being said about Stephen Sondheim’s final musical, based on two films by Luis Buñuel.

(c)Emilio Madrid

WhatsOnStage: “Once you go with the flow, you won’t care that one character is carrying a stuffed sheep through the audience, and another is dancing with a giant bear. It’s a surrealist puzzle that Sondheim and Ives clearly enjoyed trying to solve — and we’d be hard-pressed not to enjoy it ourselves.”

Time Out.com: **** “Here We Are is meticulously assembled—including by choreographer Sam Pinkleton, lighting designer Natasha Katz, and sound designer Tom Gibbons—as well as cleverly written and wonderfully performed. It also, at a certain point, runs out of music. About 15 minutes into Act II, the onstage piano goes dead quiet. “Rest in peace,” says the Bishop, and as Pierce says the line he looks out and up, as though acknowledging a greater loss. And that seems to be the overall attitude of Mantello’s production: recognizing, and moving forward. This is what we have, it seems to say, and this is better than nothing. It is what it is. We are where we are. Here we are. Here we go.”

Variety.com: ““Here We Are” delights in the flavor of its vapid jet-sets, but ultimately spits them out in a resolution that betrays its own internal logic. It’s too much, and robs the show of its potential teeth. Better to know when the feast is done.”

The Guardian: *** “Enjoyable and necessary as further evidence of Sondheim’s breadth, the full work feels severed from its radical origins and potential.”

New York Post: “The tunes in the first half are pleasant, but just not up to the composer-lyricist’s usual level of wit or musical distinctiveness. The cast sings a repeated, ho-hum song about “this perfect day,” as the afternoon ironically becomes worse and worse, and Leo muses that “we are what we are.” Most are forgettable.”

Vulture.com: “So although it’s not a surprise, it’s still an invigorating relief that Sondheim’s final offering to the world, the long-time-coming new musical Here We Are, is a fittingly complex and thorny one. The same seething consciousness of caste and cruelty that ripples through Sweeney forms the backbone of Here We Are, a show equally preoccupied with trendy restaurants and one with, if anything, even more of an impulse to eat the rich.”

Washington Post: “We’ve been through sharper existential crises with convergences of Sondheim characters over the years: the painted figures stuck forever together on the Seurat canvas in “Sunday in the Park with George,” the fairy-tale denizens wandering bewildered in the forest of “Into the Woods.” We’re consoled in “Here We Are” with one more chance to gather together with Sondheim, to hear his irreplaceable voice on a stage. The resulting evening might not be stranded at square one, but it doesn’t satisfactorily cross the finish line, either.”

New York Theater.me: “How you react to “Here We Are” greatly depends on what you are expecting. Sondheim’s music has a thrillingly familiar sound – not least, I suspect, because it’s arranged and orchestrated by two of Sondheim’s long-time collaborators, Alexander Gemignani and Jonathan Tunick – but on first listen it seems so seamlessly integrated into Ives’ dialogue that it’s hard to imagine being turned into discrete songs for the bourgeoisie at piano bars like Marie’s Crisis. Ives’ adaptation streamlines Buñuel’s films for the stage and adds its own comic flourishes, but it’s faithful enough to the filmmaker’s opaque, random strangeness that some theatergoers will surely find it a challenge to interpret or even to digest. The cast is starry and game, but this is an ensemble piece, with most of the actors on stage together most of the time, which sometimes sows confusion.”

Slant Magazine: “What music there is, though, doesn’t disappoint. Sondheim’s score is decidedly within his most familiar vocabulary, a final master class in pressing music into the service of character. As the recent revivals of Sweeney Todd and Merrily We Roll Along also demonstrate, one of Sondheim’s superior gifts was his impeccable understanding of how the ear processes language. Rhythm and melody, under his pen, allow the text to crash like a wave over us, somehow guiding the listener response so that everyone gets the joke at the exact same moment.”

The Wrap: “These actors who have been so carefully choreographed in act one now appear simply to flay against one another without much thought or design. Will a revival of this show someday make sense of why the singing stops and the piano goes mute (and horror of horrors, everybody’s cell phones ceases to function)? Who knows? If “Merrily We Roll Along” can be turned into a big hit forty years after its disastrous premiere, anything is possible.”

New York Theatre Guide.com: **** “Sondheim, meanwhile, doesn’t offer up his signature tongue-twisting lyrics, but in just a note or two, melodies announce themselves as hailing from the same creator of Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods. Incidental songs pop up about a perfect day, the end of the world, and a rudderless priest. The score is pretty and moody — no more, no less.”

The Telegraph: *** “The late composer’s last musical has finally made it to onto a New York stage – but it won’t be remembered as one of his best.”

Here We Are is playing at The Shed until the 21st January 2024. To find out more visit: https://www.theshed.org/program/301-here-we-are