San Francisco Playhouse, the excellent downtown theater company perhaps best known for producing local premieres of new off-Broadway dramas and comedies, also presents popular musicals each year, most often in the summer. It carries on that tradition now in the era of the pandemic, with a few tweaks. The show opens in the fall, not in the summer, and rather than a standard musical, it’s a musical review of 25 “story songs” that cover a wide range of emotions.
“Start Here, Start Now,” with music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr., actually started there – the Manhattan Theater Club – then: 1976 (women are called “girls”). There is a New York vibe about it, as the young people – in the original interpretation, the “characters” as such were seen as heterosexual – sing, both humorously and melancholy, the whims of love and loss, hopes and dreams for the future.
In this rendition, with four players (Rinabeth Apostol, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Keith Pinto and Melissa WolfKlain) instead of the original cast of three, the song-stories aptly encompass straight and same-sex relationships, wisely and without changing any lines. .
To be without intrigue, it’s a fairly long show (almost two hours with intermission). It’s a series of songs played and danced accompanied on stage by a pianist, bassist and drummer (musical direction by Dave Dobrusky) with simple costumes (the players are all pristine white) and no set to speak of. .
But the performers are charming and the songs, both the melancholy confessions of loneliness and unrequited love and the upbeat, often quite comical songs, work just as well. And, as directed by Susi Damilano and Nicole Helfer (who also choreographed), the energy never falters, and the dance numbers, which include a welcome touch at the end, are perfect for the size of the cast and dimensions of the scene. .
Pinto stands out. He’s an accomplished physique clown, he has a confident grasp of all comedic undertones, and his painful and provocative “I don’t remember Christmas” in Act 1 might give you goosebumps.
And if there’s a little too much pro forma smiley face that feels good to the cliché “we’re in a musical so we’re happy” – that serves to make the more melancholy songs particularly powerful by contrast. Overall, the SF Playhouse team captures many nuances of our individual emotional journeys these days, whether we are longing for the past or anticipating better times to come.
Start here, start now
Presented by the San Francisco Playhouse
Or: 450 Post Street, SF; also in streaming
When: 7 p.m. from Wednesday to Thursday; 8 p.m. on Fridays; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays; 2 p.m. on Sunday; closes on October 2
Tickets: $ 15 to $ 100
Contact: (415) 677-9596, sfplayhouse.org
To note: COVID security protocols are in place.