NYTG at the New York Premiere of Hello Again

New York Theatre Guide attends the NY Premiere of the movie adaptation of Off-Broadway musical Hello Again at Cinépolis Chelsea.

The Cast & Crew of Hello Again

Last night the New York Theatre Guide was invited to the New York premiere of the latest stage musical to hit the silver screen. It is (sadly) quite a rare thing for film adaptations of Broadway musicals to be greenlit, and even more rare for Off-Broadway musicals to get the same treatment. That's why we were more than happy to celebrate the occasion and join some of the stars of Hello Again, as well as the creative minds behind the movie musical, at Cinépolis Chelsea for what turned out to be both a modern and a nostalgic affair.

Five of the principal actors of the ensemble piece were on hand for the event - a talented bunch of young actors, who posed calm and collected - however, they were also joined by members of the original 1993 Off-Broadway cast of Hello Again, who reunited on the red carpet as old friends and ecstatically celebrated as if it were 1999. The musical obviously played an important part in their stage careers and emotions of nostalgia were resonating throughout the cinema. Attendees included Judy Blazer, Carolee Carmello, John Dossett, Michael Gets, Michell Pawk, Michael Park, Saundra Santiago, Bob Stillman, and David A. White.

Hello Again originally premiered at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater on December 30, 1993 and ran for 101 performances, picking up a total of eight Drama Desk Award nominations including "Best Musical". A cast album was released in 1994. 

The Off-Broadway Cast of Hello Again

Representing the movie last night were Jenna Ushkowitz, Cheyenne Jackson, Nolan Gerard Funk, Al Calderon, and Tyler Blackburn, alongside the musical's composer and lyricist Michael John LaChiusa, as well as the movie's director Tom Gustafson and screenwriter Cory Krueckeberg.

Cast and Creative Team Members of Hello Again

The film also stars Mama Broadway herself Audra McDonald, as well as Martha Plimpton, Rumer Willis, Sam Underwood, and T.R. Knight, who all play a couple of different characters each in the ensemble musical which follows a series of love affairs and sexual interactions between individuals throughout the ten different decades of the 20th century.

Here's our film review by Michael Hillyer:

Hello, Again, Tom Gustafson’s film version of Michael John LaChiusa’s 1993 musical (itself an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1900 play La Ronde), is yet another example of why it is so difficult for musicals to translate to the screen, but it is certain to add a new perspective to the debate, to put it mildly.

A series of vignettes marking the sexual encounters of ten characters, Hello Again begins, as does La Ronde, with an exterior episode between a soldier and a streetwalker. Scene two, the soldier couples with a nurse; scene three, the nurse with a student, scene four, the student with a young wife, and so on until the roster of ten characters has had its way with each other, ending in the final scene with the streetwalker from the first scene, a la ronde. Schnitzler’s play was considered quite scandalous in its day, and wasn’t produced until 20 years after it was written, though the scenes were mainly pre- or post-coital, or both, with the characters exiting to the boudoir together to indicate their coupling.

Of course, the film doesn’t do that. The (mostly) hand-held camera keeps the attractive cast company during their intimate exertions, often while they are singing, and this is where that pesky stage to screen “movie musical” difficulty keeps cropping up. It is difficult enough, even for folks like myself who enjoy musicals, to suspend disbelief when an onscreen character bursts into song, but in the case of Hello Again, that difficulty is compounded by the impulse to look away when the singer has his pants down below his hairy butt and is banging his scene partner harder than a screen door in a hurricane. The prurient interest one might feel at the outset of the film quickly wanes, as each scene is centered ruthlessly upon the same activity: the whole point, I think, is to walk us through the repetitive emotional emptiness of one-night stands, but by about the fourth scene the only novelty the film can offer from the relentless ritual of seduction and carnal satisfaction is the variety of courtship; will it be missionary position, fellatio, masturbation or doggy style?

That this modern version of Schnitzler’s more oblique approach mixes race, same-sex and trans-gender couples into the fold is interesting, but at the end of the day not really helpful in terms of clarifying the material. Neither is setting each scene in a different decade of the 20th Century, scrambled into no particular order, which perversely turns the film’s pairing couples into singing, soft-porn time-travelers. Kind of like Glee on steroids, or should I say, poppers? The production elements, especially the various period costumes of Rebecca Luke, are excellent throughout, but by the time you are halfway through this film, at almost an hour in, you might be tempted to wander off to the concession stand to find some popcorn for some emotional solace. Michael John LaChiusa’s interesting score expresses the variety of the musical periods well, though the high point for me was the 1944 Stage Door Canteen setting of the second scene, where Karen Marie Richardson as a chanteuse and Kingsley Leggs as a crooner light up the room with their snappy vocals, while keeping on all of their clothes. So do the coyly draped "in delicto flagrante" couples: clothes are worn throughout the sex scenes for the most part, the women stay dressed, either fully or down to bras and panties, the men often unzip or pull down their pants past their buttocks, but that is as far as the nudity goes. The only nipples on display here are masculine, so in a sense even the visual eroticism of this exhausting film goes no farther than the celebrated utility of tits on a bull.

Cheyenne Jackson & Michael John LaChiusa

Jenna Ushkowitz & Nolan Gerard Funk

Tyler Blackburn

Al Calderon

Cheyenne Jackson

Jenna Ushkowitz

Nolan Gerard Funk

Michael John LaChiusa

Audra McDonald

Audra McDonald & Martha Plimpton

Rumer Willis & Al Calderon

Jenna Ushkowitz

Tyler Blackburn & Cheyenne Jackson

Hello Again is released in cinemas nationwide tomorrow, November 8, 2017.

(NY Premiere photos by Tom Millward / Film stills courtesy of Hello Again LLC)