Review Roundup: New Robert & Kristen Lopez Musical UP HERE at La Jolla Playhouse - All the Reviews!
La Jolla Playhouse opened its world premiere of UP HERE, a new musical comedy featuring book, music and lyrics by the husband-and-wife composing team of Robert Lopez (The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (In Transit), recipients of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Original Song for their hit song, "Let It Go," from the Disney animated film Frozen. UP HERE is directed by Tony Award nominee Alex Timbers (Broadway's Rocky, Off-Broadway's Here Lies Love, Playhouse's Peter and the Starcatcher) and runs now through September 6 in the Playhouse's Mandell Weiss Theatre.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
James Hebert, San Diego Union Tribune: Bittner is just about pitch-perfect as the geeky and somewhat needy and yet frustrated Dan, sabotaged by the voices in his head that also include the sarcastic Humbug (a comically cutting Devere Rogers) and the well-meaning but hapless Mr. Can-Do (Devin Ratray as a kind of tipsy lumberjack.) Wolfe is also a funny and appealing presence as Lindsay, the corporate refugee who has named her shirt company "Inside Out." (One savvy line acknowledges the similar in-the-brain setup of the Pixar movie by that name.)
Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times: This is clearly a very personal project for the show's highly successful husband-and-wife creators, but they don't yet have the necessary narrative distance. The show bursts into life during the musical numbers, but then subsides (especially in the second act) when the story returns to dialogue. The musical's winning conceit (now all the rage with Pixar's animated hit "Inside Out") could be more complexly developed, but Timbers (the director and book-writer of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson") exuberantly marshals the characters inside Dan's head and choreographer Joshua Bergasse sets them into kaleidoscopic motion.
Geoff Berkshire, Variety: Visually, "Up Here" is a non-stop spectacle, exemplified best by the colorful, cartoony and at times garish set and costume design by "The Pee Wee Herman Show" veterans David Korins and Ann Closs-Farley. It's as if the action is unfolding literally inside Dan's cranium, all pink and purple and bubbly. But there's also a monotony to both the look and the story that sets in early and never really dissipates.
Tony Frankel, Stage and Cinema: The visuals are astounding. Ann Closs-Farley has a field-day with the imaginative costumes, including dogs, tribal warriors, amusement park employees, and that happy-go-lucky lumberjack and dancing cactus who pick at Dan's brain. I loved that one of the voices, The Critic, is tall, imposing, and effete in Jeff Hiller's characterization, but nothing in lyric or libretto gives us insight as to what motivates a critic. Fortunately, Closs-Farley distracts with his Oscar Wilde-ish futuristic get up. And the set is like the inside of a circus dark ride: Set designer David Korins' proscenium flies look like old-fashioned candy buttons on paper tape, and they are fantastically lit by David J. Weiner.
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