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A CurtainUp Review
Now Here This

To get to the intersection of Now (the past or the future). Now (Not the past or the future). Here (exactly where you are), whatever it is you're doing, you will be truly present to experience more life.
— Thomas Merton, philosopher-Trappist monk (1915 1968). As Merton's musical interpreters see it most of us are carrying around "too many mental knapsacks so filled with loose ends to get to that intersection."
Now Here This
(l-r): . : Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen, Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff
(Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)
Those four can-do, now 40-year-old kids — Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen, Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff — are at it again. As they did for their lower case titled, but with higher ambitions title of show, the foursome have concocted their new work collaboratively. The title is in upper and lower case this time, but annoyingly punctuated. The music and lyrics are by Jeff, the book is by Hunter and Susan and Heidi does the heavy lifting in the singing department. The show's stars? Who else but Hunter, Jeff, Susan and Heidi.

The costumes are still just comfortably casual street clothes. The "characters" are again named Hunter, Jeff, Susan and Heidi because this is still their journey. The basic structure remains: four people who know and seem to genuinely like each other riffing about themselves and a big dream. But the Babes in Arms style team has left Judy and Mickey's homespun setup and opted for more carefully scripted and staged polish.

Instead of a pianist, there's a 4-person combo. The dance routines (again (by director Michael Berresse) are a bit slicker. Richard DiBella is on board with some stunning and show enhancing projections (as far as I'm concerned, the star of the show). Most importantly, the new piece addresses a broader audience. You don't have to view being part of a musical on or off Broadway as the dream of dreams to relate to the subject of getting the most out of life and dealing with past failures, disappointments and the inevitable sorrows of losing loved ones?

Reflecting on one's past and present, the things one yearns to do and actually does and doing so within the context of the whole human species is the memoirist's mother's milk. The same sort of rumination, prompted a successful Hollywood guy, Tom Shadyac, to make the documentary I AM after a near fatal accident. But with Now. Here. This. the journey towards being more present to experiencing more life is a four-way, everything but the kitchen sink ride with topical stops, in no particular order. Those topics include: birds, bees, reptiles, dinosaurs, , ancient civilizations, outer space; plus memories of middle school, loneliness, friendship, hoarding, hiding, laughing, living and dying.

To steer our "searchers" through all these topics Neil Patel has created a facsimile of a generic Natural History Museum for them to wander through. Its various exhibits set off all manner of musical and conversational free associations with personal histories. With the exception of some segments, like one about the death of a beloved grandmother, more than a few smack of self-indulgent navel gazing. None are likely to offer any really revelatory insights.

The lyrics are occasionally clever and the music is pleasantly melodic and well delivered (especially by Heidi Blickenstaff), though somewhat repetitive. If I had to pick the three best, it would be "I Wonder," "Archer " and "This Time."

While the show business insider references from title of show are gone, Now. Here. This has plenty of cultural references. in addition to the thematic concept quoted at the top of this review and borrowed from Trappist monk Thomas Merton, there 's the Groupon coupon used to pay for the museum admission and the thousand dollar stuffed dinosaur that triggers the need for an ipad.

The show biz smitten fans who carried title of show to Broadway and numerous regional productions with stand-ins for its creators will undoubtedly flock to the Vineyard to see what Hunter, Jeff, Susan and Heidi are doing. But while they're no longer the only ones to get everything said or sung and the more sophisticated presentation notwithstanding, Now.Here.This. is a small show, more an autobiographical revue than a musical and probably best suited to and most engaging in an intimate theater like the Vineyard.
Now. Here. This.
Written by Hunter Bell and Susan Blackwell
Music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen
Based on a collaboration by Michael Berresse, Susan Blackwell, Heidi Blickenstaff, Jeff Bowen and Larry Pressgrove.
Directed and choreographed by Michael Berresse
Cast: Hunter Bell, Susan Blackwell, Heidi Blickenstaff, Jeff Bowen
Musical Drector: Larry Pressgrove
Scenic design: Neil Patel
Costume design: Gregory Gale
Lighting: Jeff Croiter
Sound: Acme Sound Partners
Projections: Richard DiBella
Stage Manager: Martha Donaldson
usicians: /Larry Pressgrove (Keyboard), Chris Biesterfeldt(Guitar), Joe Mowatt (Percussion/ Drums), Steve Count (Guitar/Bass/)
Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes without intermission
Vineyard Theatre 108 East 15th Street 12 353 0303.
After a Developmental Lab Production at The Vineyard
From 3/07/12; opening 3/28/12; closing 4/15/22
Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays through Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm and Sundays at 3pm.
Tickets : $75 ($100 for premium tickets),
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at March 25th press matinee

Prologue: What Are the Odds? /Company
I Wonder /Company
Dazzle Camouflage /Jeff & Company
Give Me Your Attention /Heidi
I Rarely Schedule Nothing /Susan
Members Only /Company
That'll Never Be Me /Susan, Heidi
Kick Me/Jeff
Then Comes You/Company
The Amazing Adventures of the "Doc" Wilbert S. Pound C/ompany
That Makes Me Hot/Company
Golden Palace /Susan& Company
Get Into It Hunter &Company
This Time /Heidi & Company
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