Review Roundup: WE'RE GONNA DIE Opens at Second Stage- Read the Reviews
WE'RE GONNA DIE officially opened tonight at Second Stage Theater Read the reviews!
WE'RE GONNA DIE is a non-musical/non-play/non-concert that is not about dying. It's a celebration of the things we do, say, and sing to keep ourselves going as we hurtle toward the finish line. Through a series of stories and songs both hilarious and heartbreaking, WE'RE GONNA DIE offers proof positive that being alive is about more than just awaiting the inevitable.
Starring Janelle McDermoth, WE'RE GONNA DIE is written by Young Jean Lee and directed & choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly, featuring original music by Young Jean Lee and Tim Simmonds, additional music by John-Michael Lyles, and lyrics by Young Jean Lee. Music supervision and arrangements are by Remy Kurs with orchestrations by Cian McCarthy.
Jesse Green, The New York Times: That's the whole show, so frank in outline you may at first be tempted to sift through its simplicity for something more complex. I spent a good deal of time wondering whether the originating idea - Lee has said that the show arose, after her father's death, as a way of seeking and offering comfort - had somehow refluxed into a satire of its own mechanics. Lee's lyrics are so literally deadpan ("You'll hold my hand until I'm dead") that the sweet and peppy tunes (by Lee and Tim Simmonds and John-Michael Lyles) seem to be spoofing them, or the other way around.
Brian Scott Lipton, TheatrePizzazz: The interconnected stories of the Singer's past (all of which are reportedly true, but did not necessarily happen to Lee), not only serve as effective cautionary tales; they are also designed to bring some form of comfort to those who have been or are in pain. But it's the show's songs (all of which have lyrics by Lee set to the music of either John-Michael Lyles or Tim Simmonds) that really drive Lee's singular message home.
Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: The stories are so absorbing and McDermoth's interpretations are so engaging that it's actually a shame We're Gonna Die runs only 65 minutes. (But dropping balloons in an upstage corner all throughout the show, one by one by one by one? Majorly distracting. It's like a leaky faucet.) We want to hear more. How often can you say you want a show to be longer?
Michael Sommers, New York Stage Review: As the show heads towards its conclusion, eventually all of the musicians romp into a goofy, freely-spirited, happy song and dance around the stage. Sporting party hats and kicking through an avalanche of balloons, the ensemble has been staged by Raja Feather Kelly, the director-choreographer, to celebrate an inexorable fact repeated in the finale: "We're alive but we can't live forever." The audience is encouraged to sing along and plenty of them did the other evening. A weird show, right? And yet We're Gonna Die stares down extinction and shrugs it off as an inevitable fact of life. There's consolation to be found in such a reminder.
Robert Hofler, The Wrap: During this riotous party scene, somebody on stage removes the clock from the waiting room wall. The clock had been clicking away in real time, and since I thought we had another 10 minutes to go in this 65-minute show, the abrupt ending emerged as the biggest, most pleasant surprise of the evening. One detail did concern me, however. McDermoth sings "We're going to die," while the other band members sing, "We're gonna die." Does this mean something? Or did they not rehearse much?
Regina Robbins, Time Out New York: The show's simplicity is its greatest innovation; its rejection of traditional notions of character and plot is of a piece with its general skepticism about the life-and-death narratives we tell ourselves. Eschewing the "Death is not the end!" worldview that some religions espouse, We're Gonna Die is in no way sentimental, but it's full of earnest emotion. As our guide and avatar, McDermoth is charming and sounds great, and the band behind her gets our blood pumping even when our hearts are breaking. Death will come for us all, sure, but for an hour or so this show provides a cause for celebration.