Review: YOU'RE GONNA LOVE TOMORROW! at Theater2020

Now on stage through November 6th

By: Oct. 21, 2022
Review: YOU'RE GONNA LOVE TOMORROW! at Theater2020
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When was the last time you encountered something, or perhaps met someone, which made you look forward to tomorrow? When were you last given a reason to be propelled into a world of possibility, of chances not yet taken and exciting experiences not yet had? Not quite yet in the aftermath of Covid, there's a certain preciousness to something that gives us incentive to enter a new day with hope, with appreciation of those things we may not have thought possible to ever feel the same about again.

With that in mind, it's comforting to know that, regardless of what challenges our world goes through, there are two things that will never change: the presence of inspirational people with an undying need to create something beautiful, and those of us who need the catharsis such individuals bring into our lives. Fortunately, theater has risen to the challenge of a battered world and brings both to perfect fruition. And not just the idea of theater, but actual quality theater which absolutely has the power of renewing our sense of hope in the world. Productions that make us want to be great, to see great things happen and stir within us a special feeling that yes - we may actually be able to see my tomorrow in an exhilarating new light. As luck would have it, Theater 2020 is ready to accept the challenge with its current production You're Gonna Love Tomorrow! - an evening of Sondheim that you are sure not soon to forget.

Review: YOU'RE GONNA LOVE TOMORROW! at Theater2020
From left: Rori Nogee, Elena Cramer, Alex Parrish, Helen Jane Planchet, Matthew Liu & Matt Mancuso (John Hoffman Photography)

Theater 2020 is the professional theater of Brooklyn Heights, dedicated to producing quality classic and contemporary plays and musicals inclusive of both emerging artists and seasoned professionals. The troupe now brings its first in-person performance to the stage since the pandemic began, and it has undoubtedly come back as an undeniable force of greatness.

You're Gonna Love Tomorrow! is a rarely performed revue of the late Stephen Sondheim's works, most of which were cut from their respective shows and therefore hardly ever performed. As a beautiful homage to a musical genius whose passing late last year rattled the theater world, Artistic Directors Judith Jarosz and David Fuller present this collection of his lesser known works to a Brooklyn audience. Having once collaborated with Sondheim themselves, Fuller and Jarosz lead Theater 2020 in its tradition of respectfully (and might I add brilliantly) bringing his works to the stage, following in the footsteps of such previous productions as Sweeney Todd (2017) and Assassins (2018).

Originally produced and directed by Paul Lazarus in 1983 using Sondheim's original music and lyrics, a cast of Broadway veterans was brought together to work on A Stephen Sondheim Evening for an installment of the Whitney Museum's Composers Showcase Series. A collaboration of Sondheim, Lazarus and the composer's long-time musical director Paul Gemignani, the trio constructed an evening of song that would show the many sides of Sondheim's creative genius. As our present-day world continues to heal from past transgressions, there is comfort in Sondheim's timeless nature - in his music (even those melodies we hardly recognize) can we continue to discover how truly inspiring musical theater can be.

The beauty of Sondheim, although incredibly difficult to get right, is literal music to the ears when performed by those who appreciate the intricacies of his notes and understand the psychological depth of many of his characters. This beauty is something the world truly needs right now, and Fuller describes Theater2020's new season as "beginning on a positive, life-affirming note." How right he is!

In performances through November 6th, You're Gonna Love Tomorrow! is a collection of cut songs from many of Sondheim's greatest works such as Anyone Can Whistle, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A Little Night Music and Merrily We Roll Along (to name only a few). It's truly amazing how his lesser known songs were plentiful enough to create not just a single revue, but in fact five (including Marry Me a Little and Side By Side By Sondheim)! Directed by Fuller and musically directed by Griffin Strout, audiences are definitely in for quite a treat with this production; it would hardly be fair to say anything less.

Even though you may not recognize the songs, and whether or not you're familiar with Sondheim's works or don't frequent the theater much at all, the results of Theater2020's efforts with this show should truly be experienced by everyone. The complexity of Sondheim is hereby confronted with the simplicity of this statement: this show is wonderful. I've been a constant advocate of everything Theater2020 has presented because of their dedication to bringing professional theater to a Brooklyn audience, and there is little difference in what I'm about to say now.

Six actors take to the stage, playing characters without names (for the intents of this show) and weaving their way through different stories as they move from song to song. Some experiences are whimsical, some sad and some thought provoking. "Saturday Night" brings two single people "together" to tell the audience about their lack of Saturday night plans, while "Not a Day Goes By'' expresses the grief of a couple who can't make their relationship work, but can't ever shake the unending anguish love has wrought. Young Anthony sings about a young woman he has only just gazed upon in Sweeney Todd's "Johanna", while a woman embodies the momentum and uncertainty of New York City life in "Another Hundred People". Alternating their time spent on stage, the six easily captivate their audience for the production's full eighty minutes, and from start to finish almost playfully whisk their way through a multitude of emotions with the joy of children who are having the most fun in the world, but have no idea that someone is watching. Review: YOU'RE GONNA LOVE TOMORROW! at Theater2020

Elena Cramer, Matthew Liu, Matt Mancuso, Rori Nogee, Alex Parrish and Helen Jane Planchet are the show's six stars, manifesting the raw depth of Sondheim's works with the ease only a seasoned professional can bring to the game. As mentioned, Sondheim's works are already difficult to perform - simply hearing the composer's name is a definite foreshadow of the intense musical adventure to come. Yet, the intricacies of his music pose no threat to those who proudly represent Theater2020 - not in the least. Calling them perfect in their execution of everything done on that stage is an understatement. From their powerhouse voices, to how simply polished they all appear in both sound and appearance (their performance was as flawless and unmarred as their freshly ironed silk shirts) - everything created the masterpiece that is these six actors simply stepping on stage and doing what they do best.

Not only is their talent obvious, but so is the group's solid sense of camaraderie. I've never quite seen actors so cohesive in their emotions, so comfortable among each other that everything they did mimicked that of a family having a splendid time simply being amongst themselves - a playfulness that comes from years of being acquainted, pristinely captured in only a few short weeks of rehearsal. Each actor is so free in his or her movements, so confident in what each can do but with the innocence of someone not trying too hard, that it is simply mesmerizing to watch each perform.

One such musical number I remember smirking at was "There's Something About a War". It is a pleasure to watch Mancuso dance his way (both physically and figuratively) through the joys of fighting a war - he was so deliciously maniacal during this scene, but again portrayed that authenticity of someone truly enjoying themselves without even trying, or even acknowledging that someone else is there. I wish that I could live my life that way, without inhibitions and with the downright glee of being so present in a moment; it is indicative of each actor was throughout the entire performance, and it is truly admirable, to say the least.

In short, I'm glad these people aren't on Broadway yet, so they can continue to share their talents with this side of the bridge! And you will be too, when you hear them sing.

Kudos must also go to the creative team, including Judith Jarosz as Choreographer, Nick Champroux as Costume Designer and Emma Weiner as Stage Manager. Without you all, none of this would have happened in quite the seamless way it did. I already mentioned Griffin Strout on piano, but he deserves a second mention. To play Sondheim without a single note missed (at least to our ears) is something special - well done!

You're Gonna Love Tomorrow! ("A Stephen Sondheim Evening"), began performances in the Great Room (138 South Oxford Street, a mere two blocks away from the Barclay's Center) on October 13th, and will continue through November 6th. Regular tickets range from $40-$50 ($30 for seniors and students), and can be purchased here. The performance schedule is as follows: Thursdays (10/20, 10/27 & 11/3) at 8 pm, Fridays (10/21, 10/28 & 11/4) at 8 pm, Saturdays (10/22, 10/29 & 11/5) at 8 pm and Sundays (10/30 & 11/6) at 8 pm. For more information on both the show and what Theater2020 is working on next, take a look at their website here.

Please go out and support Brooklyn's local theaters - you'll be pleasantly surprised by how much you might love tomorrow...and it all starts with what your plans will be tonight.


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