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Two Thumbs Up for ‘Up Here’

La Jolla Playhouse’s newest musical has all the makings of a mega hit.


Betsy Wolfe and Matt Bittner in La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere musical Up Here | Photo by Matthew Murphy

Let’s face it, everyone is a little neurotic, especially when it comes to romance. Ah, love. That razor-sharp line between total bliss and utter misery is the foundation for a lot of great art.

In the history of musical theater, Stephen Sondheim was one of the first composer/lyricists to move away from the happy-go-lucky songs of Rogers and Hammerstein and get real. His songs were sometimes funny, oftentimes dark, and much more honest than audiences had experienced before.

Enter Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the dream team behind La Jolla Playhouse’s latest musical Up Here.

This world-premiere production follows the story of thirty-something computer nerd Dan and his attempts to find love, which are thrown off course by the self-destructive voices in his head.

It’s hysterical and relatable, clever and endearing—a truly modern musical for the next generation of quick-witted, tech-savvy, jean-wearing theatergoers.

San Diego is incredibly lucky to have the Lopez duo to add to its roster of talent. The married couple, which won an Academy Award for their work on Disney’s Frozen, has been developing Up Here for more than a decade and ultimately chose La Jolla Playhouse for its debut. In addition to Frozen, Robert Lopez was also part of the creative team behind Avenue Q and the Book of Mormon. The fact that he and his wife are here really says a lot about our city and the quality of its performing arts community.

Up Here opened on Sunday to much laughter and a rousing standing ovation.

Critically speaking, the journey into Dan’s head, with its wonderful bank of characters and Dan’s super-cool t-shirt collection, works best in Act I. The musical loses its footing in the second act with two subplots—one geological, one mathematical—that, although charming and informative, take away from the main love story.  

But then again, true to the show’s theme, maybe I am overthinking. After all, “We are not our thoughts!”

For more on the show’s stars, click here.

For our interview with Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, click here.

Up Here runs through September 6. lajollaplayhouse.org

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