×

Now. Here. This.

Hunter, Jeff, Susan and Heidi are back, and if that news sends you gleefully running down to Off Broadway's Vineyard Theater, you're sure to be rewarded. If it leaves you scratching your head, lower your expectations accordingly.

With:
Hunter - Hunter Bell
Susan - Susan Blackwell
Heidi - Heidi Blickenstaff
Jeff - Jeff Bowen
Museum Voice Over - Roger Rees

Hunter, Jeff, Susan and Heidi are back, and if that news sends you gleefully running down to Off Broadway’s Vineyard Theater, you’re sure to be rewarded. If it leaves you scratching your head, lower your expectations accordingly. “Now. Here. This.” is likable enough, and a couple of steps up from the quartet’s cult-fave outing “[title of show],” but still doesn’t quite deliver on its lofty aspirations. It’s like watching someone else’s group therapy session, albeit one filled with interesting personalities.

“[title of show],” the semi-autobiographical tuner about four friends who collaborate on a self-referential musical, looked out of place, underwritten and underpopulated in its 2008 Broadway run, but its enduring appeal to fans — in a 2004 bow at New York Musical Theater Festival and two successful subsequent runs at the Vineyard — suggested the team had accumulated a rabid, if relatively small, fanbase.

Here the endearing foursome (along with their former director-choreographer, Michael Berresse, and musical director, Larry Pressgrove) have reconvened for a tuner that, far from being about nothing (as “[title of show]” was), is literally about everything: the world, the universe, existential sea turtles. The characters — or is it the actors? — take a trip to the Museum of Natural History and discuss cosmology, cosmetology, how they were awkward at school and their relationships with fathers and grandmothers.

They do so with a good deal of humor and some effective songs, in a polished and professional production that makes “[title of show]” look as though it were designed by a ninth-grade drama club. But at the end of the day, how many jokes do we want to hear about Hunter Bell’s trouble finding a boyfriend?

The quartet remains attractive and friendly, and as before, Susan Blackwell stands out as the more-or-less adult of the group. A comedienne who can raise a laugh by raising an eyebrow, she also demonstrates abilities here as a dramatic actor and writer (billed as co-librettist with Bell). Two of the strongest sections of the one-act musical are speeches delivered, and presumably written, by Blackwell: one about discovering herself as a writer at the MacDowell Artists Colony in New Hampshire, and one about growing up an outcast in a “hoarding house” filled with old newspapers and bags full of trash.

Bell and Jeff Bowen play musical-comedy versions of themselves, with Bell retaining his pleasant persona while Bowen is here somewhat more aggressive than in his prior incarnation. Bowen’s score, as before, suggests he may be an interesting composer-lyricist when he gets around to writing on a larger scale. Heidi Blickenstaff (“The Little Mermaid”) (“The Addams Family”) remains the normal one of the group.

“Who needs reality when you can live in fantasy?” goes one of the final songs, and that pretty much sums up the world of Hunter, Jeff, Susan and Heidi for 100 reasonably entertaining minutes. But although “Now. Here. This.” is not aimless, it does leave you with a nagging feeling of “Should. We. Care.”

Now. Here. This.

Vineyard Theater; 125 seats; $80 top

Production: A Vineyard Theater presentation of a musical in one act with music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen, book by Hunter Bell and Susan Blackwell. Directed and choreographed by Michael Berresse, musical direction by Larry Pressgrove.

Creative: Sets, Neil Patel; costumes, Gregory Gale; lights, Jeff Croiter and Grant Yeager; sound, Acme Sound Partners; orchestrations, Pressgrove and Rob Preuss; vocal arrangements, Bowen and Pressgrove; production stage manager, Martha Donaldson. Opened March 28, 2012. Reviewed March 24. Runs through April 22. Running time: 1 HOUR, 40 MIN.

Cast: Hunter - Hunter Bell
Susan - Susan Blackwell
Heidi - Heidi Blickenstaff
Jeff - Jeff Bowen
Museum Voice Over - Roger ReesMusical Numbers: "What Are the Odds?" "I Wonder," "Dazzle Camouflage," "Give Me Your Attention," "Archer," "I Rarely Schedule Nothing," "Members Only," "That'll Never Be Me," "Kick Me," "Then Comes You," "The Amazing Adventures of the Doc Wilbert S. Pound," "That Makes Me Hot," "Golden Palace," "Get Into It," "This Time"

More Legit

  • 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama' Review

    L.A. Theater Review: 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama'

    What function do superhero stories play in American society? Are they merely escapist distractions for head-in-the-clouds teens, or could those same formats actually serve a practical function, providing useful tools for everyday life? Recognizing these comic book fantasies as by far the dominant form of contemporary mythmaking for a generation of young people, emerging playwright [...]

  • Danielle Brooks'Ain't Too Proud - The

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks Became a Broadway Producer

    Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” “I [...]

  • Ain't Too Proud review

    Broadway Review: 'Ain't Too Proud'

    In the wake of the long-running “Jersey Boys” and the short-lived “Summer,” director Des McAnuff is back on Broadway with another show built around the song catalog of a music act — and although “Ain’t Too Proud” has all the right sounds and slick moves, this bio-musical of the R&B vocal group the Temptations is [...]

  • 'White Noise' Theater Review: Suzan-Lori Parks

    Off Broadway Review: Daveed Diggs in 'White Noise'

    Any new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog / Underdog”) demands — and deserves — attention. And in its premiere production at the Public Theater, her latest, “White Noise,” opens with a burst of brainy energy that lasts through the first act. But it takes a nosedive in the sloppy second half, [...]

  • Alexander Dinelaris

    'Jekyll and Hyde' Movie in the Works Based on Broadway Musical

    The Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde” is getting the movie treatment from Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris. Dinelaris, who is writing and producing the adaptation, won an Oscar for the “Birdman” script and was a co-producer on “The Revenant.” He is producing “Jekyll and Hyde” as the first project under his New York-based development company, [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Listen: The 'Balls-Out Theatricality' of Sam Mendes

    If you find yourself directing a Broadway play with a cast so big it includes a goose, two rabbits, more kids than you can count and an actual infant, what do you do? If you’re Sam Mendes, you embrace the “balls-out theatricality” of it all. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a kind [...]

  • James Corden Tony Awards

    James Corden to Host 2019 Tony Awards (EXCLUSIVE)

    James Corden has been tapped to once again host the Tony Awards, Variety has learned exclusively. “The Late Late Show” host previously emceed the annual theater awards show in 2016, and won the Tony for best actor in a play for his performance in “One Man, Two Guvnors” in 2012. “I’m thrilled to be returning to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content