Amber Grey is right here: sitting within the again row of the theater at The Shed on a mid-November afternoon, a cup of tea in hand. Sitting on a high-backed bar stool, the actress is dealing with the empty stage the place in a number of hours she’s going to carry out the subsequent displaying of “Right here We Are.” The actress stars within the new musical manufacturing by Stephen Sondheim and David Ives, notable for being Sondheim’s remaining work earlier than he died in late 2021.
“I auditioned on March 22, which is Sondheim’s and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s birthday,” says Grey of coming onboard the undertaking. “So all the pieces about it felt form of blessed from the start.”
The musical relies on two movies by Surrealist Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, “The Discreet Allure of the Bourgeoisie” and “Exterminating Angel.” Within the first half of the manufacturing, inside a sparse set, the forged embarks on a neverending quest for brunch; within the second act, they discover themselves camped out within the ornate lounge of a pal’s property — and with out rational clarification, they’re unable to depart. The tip of the world looms exterior of the privileged house.
“I’m spiritually in a spot the place I’m fascinated by this stuff,” Grey says of the manufacturing, a social satire that peddles in existentialism. “And I really like that these two males, David Ives and Sondheim, within the final third of their lives as seniors are additionally interested in these films and these questions. I discover that very telling.”
The actress involves the brand new manufacturing from a long term with “Hadestown,” which earned her a Tony nomination in 2019 for her portrayal of Persephone. After Grey left the function in 2022, she went on to star in a Sam Gold-directed manufacturing of “Macbeth,” and earlier this yr made her solo live performance debut with “Grey Matter” at 54 Beneath, which explored the vary of her musical theater influences.
“I actually imagine you appeal to the place you’re at,” Grey says. “And on the time I learn the script [for ‘Here We Are’], which was early March, I used to be writing my solo cabaret. I had come off of a yr of finding out a lot of philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, faith. I’d been hanging out with numerous midwives and dying doulas, taking shaman earth medication ceremonies. So a play about existentialism — oh my gosh. I used to be like, effectively, that is coming to me for a purpose proper now,” she provides. “I do take into consideration the that means of life on a regular basis, and how one can dwell effectively and the tip of the world. These are the issues I take into consideration day by day. So it was actually weird to learn a play that was precisely the place I used to be at spiritually. Every thing about it felt actually kismet from the start.”
The manufacturing’s surrealist ambiguity opens up the potential for varied interpretations throughout the identical crowd. To some, it’s a comedy; for others, the sense of existential dread would possibly resonate extra strongly.
“Steven Spielberg was capable of lastly come final evening,” Grey says. Spielberg, who collaborated with Sondheim on the 2021 movie adaptation of “West Facet Story,” is a producer of the “Right here We Are.” “He was like, ‘so enjoyable, so miserable — it’s like a nuclear winter.’ And I used to be like — yeah,” she continues. “And a few individuals watch it and don’t get any of that. They don’t suppose any of these deeper questions concerning the that means of life. And that’s what’s so lovely about theater. Individuals interpret it in every kind of how and you can not management that final result.”
Whereas Sondheim handed away earlier than the manufacturing at The Shed was forged — and earlier than the script was completed — Grey says she was capable of meet the composer earlier in her profession, after a efficiency of “Natasha, Pierre & the Nice Comet of 1812.” “He was a giant Dave Malloy fan,” says Grey, who starred within the Broadway manufacturing.
“A lot of my musical theater profession has been with these modern musical theater composers who I like, like Anaïs Mitchell, Heather Christian, Dave Malloy, The Bengsons. The sound of the American musical is altering through the years and has numerous house for various kinds of voices,” says Grey, who integrated a lot of these composers into her solo present earlier this yr.
“I didn’t examine musical theater; I studied simply straight performing. However I had this concept in my head whereas I used to be finding out that there was a musical theater sound, as a result of I feel there was for a few years. And now it’s a bit extra various what voices we affiliate with musical theater,” provides Grey, who educated at NYU’s Tisch Faculty of the Arts. “I by no means thought I used to be going to originate a Sondheim musical. It’s a bit of historical past and I’m very honored to be part of it.”
“Right here We Are,” which opened in late October, is at present prolonged by means of mid-January.
“It’s felt actually juicy, and it simply continues to get higher and higher, which is the dream, proper?” Grey says. “I hope to maintain discovering and hold getting higher at it, which implies the work turns into simpler and extra enjoyable. After which it’ll go away — like all theater does.”