(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/16/2023; via Pam Green; Photo: Stephen Sondheim’s long-in-the-works Luis Buñuel musical will be staged in September at the Shed.Credit…Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times.)
His long-gestating final show, now titled “Here We Are,” is coming to the Shed; it is inspired by two Luis Buñuel films.
Stephen Sondheim’s long-in-the-works Luis Buñuel musical, which he described as unfinished just days before his death, will be staged in New York this fall, giving audiences the chance to see the final show by one of the most important artists in musical theater history.
The musical, now titled “Here We Are,” is inspired by two Buñuel films, “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” and “The Exterminating Angel.” Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics; the book is by the playwright David Ives (“Venus in Fur”), and Joe Mantello (“Wicked”) will direct.
The show, scheduled to begin performances in September, will be a commercial Off Broadway venture, produced by Tom Kirdahy (“Hadestown”) in a 500-seat theater at the Shed, a multidisciplinary arts venue in Hudson Yards. The Shed, a nonprofit, is being described as a co-presenter.
It is not entirely clear when Sondheim began working on the show, but he first discussed it publicly in 2014, and there were delays and setbacks in the years following. He talked about it occasionally during public appearances; for a time it was called “Buñuel,” and then “Square One”; it was backed at various points by the commercial producer Scott Rudin and by the nonprofit Public Theater. And there were workshops over the years, including one in 2016, and one in 2021 featuring Nathan Lane and Bernadette Peters; casting for the production at the Shed has not been announced, but there are no indications that Lane and Peters have remained with the project.
In an interview days before his death in late 2021, Sondheim described it this way: “I don’t know if I should give the so-called plot away, but the first act is a group of people trying to find a place to have dinner, and they run into all kinds of strange and surreal things, and in the second act, they find a place to have dinner, but they can’t get out.”
Sondheim described the show as incomplete, as did some of his collaborators in the days following his death. It is not clear what state it was in when he died, and what kind of work has been done to it since.