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Synopsis

Six actors tell the story of one couple over a lifetime. Daniel and Greg meet in college, they both have dreams of stardom but by middle age Greg has abandoned his dreams to work in a bank while Daniel is still trying to find success which strains their marriage but then in the end they find peace with themselves and with each other. Three actors play Daniel and three actors play Greg. The musical crosscuts the time as we watch them evolve in their relationships to themselves and each other.

Royalties, Licensing

and Co-Productions

Pictures

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Characters

Two Characters played by 6 Men

3 actors must be able to play guitar

All 6 must be able to sing

Minimal dancing

Length

90 minutes

Productions

> Wilton Theater Factory

   Wilton Manors, Florida 2019

> Pride Arts Center - MainStage
   Chicago, Illinois 2019

>Above the Stag

   London, England 2019

Video

London Production - Trailer

Chicago Production - Full Show

London Production - Full Show

Audience Response & Interviews

Audience Response & Interviews

Reviews

THE STAGE UK

Now and Then review at Above the Stag, London – ‘engaging play about love across the decades’

By Paul Vale - Sep 17, 2019

"Ronnie Larsen’s previous plays include Making Porn and Sleeping With Straight Men. Possessing a less provocative title, Now and Then is an unconventional musical piece written in collaboration with songwriter and guitarist Dennis Manning.

It tells a distinctly domestic story of a young couple who meet at an open-mic night in the American Mid West. Daniel is a budding singer/songwriter and Greg has dreams of a stand-up comedy career. Their life together over the next 40 years is played out in drama and song by three different pairs of performers.

Larsen has fashioned a compelling narrative that juxtaposes the dreams of their youth with the issues they face as adults. It’s an interesting conceit, made all the more engaging by Manning’s folk score played on acoustic guitar by the three actors playing Daniel.

Harry Blumenau’s economical direction brings out the lightness of Larsen’s script and David Shields’ excellent set, styled like a Nashville bar, adds to the bluegrass flavour of this love story.

Some of the accents might waver but the performances fuse together beautifully to deliver a colourful portrait of a life-long relationship.

Freddie Woodyatt is disarmingly persuasive as the young Greg while Taylor Rettke dissects Daniel’s mid-life crisis with tortured honesty. But it’s Leo Andrew and Richard Costello, as the older couple, who give this show its emotional heft. Andrew’s touching stoicism as he faces death is utterly heartbreaking and this is echoed perfectly in the burly timbre of Costello’s vocals."

THE GAY UK

"Above the Stag’s current show has lots of great songs with very good performances and a plot that is so unique and different.

Now & Then tells the story of a gay couple through three different times in their lives. And in order to do this, they need six different actors to play these six parts, and every one of them is wonderful in their own way.

We get Daniel 1 and Greg 1 (Dylan Wynford and Freddie Woodyatt) are when the couple first meet, at a young and tender age – where both are smitten with each other. Then in middle age, we see Taylor Rettke and Rhys Taylor, while Richard Costello and Leo Andrew play them in their older age.

Greg was always the sensible one, while Daniel was the dreamer – he’s a country and western singer (a very good one at that) who actually never really made it big.

So, as the title reflects, it’s ‘Now & Then’ – time to reflect on the past and to accept the present. Of course, regrets linger as the couple gets older, and Daniel’s drinking problem nearly causes them to break up, but it’s their true love for each other that gets them to older age and still a couple. Without singling any of the actors out, kudos go to Costello as the older Daniel- he sings beautifully, and when he sings at the end with the song ’Solitary Man’ he is just as perfect as it gets.

Go see Now & Then – not just for the unique storyline but also for the very good songs, all in harmony with each other, with the show, and the actors. It’s just beautiful."

MUSICAL THEATRE REVIEW

Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

By Derek Smith

"Both heart-rending and heart-warming, Now & Then, a simultaneous, intricately woven trilogy of love against a country and western backdrop is a nicely judged musical in the perfect venue, the Above The Stag Theatre.

The production’s format is inspired – a tortuous, tragic but wonderfully rewarding relationship told through three pairs of actors, representing the start, middle and end of their tempestuous relationship.

Directed with admirable style and clarity by Harry Blumenau, with book by Ronnie Larsen and music and lyrics by Dennis Manning, the opening number, ‘Solitary Man’, sung by Dylan Wynford as wannabe singing sensation Daniel 1, creates an engaging start. Then recalling all the pains, joy and awkwardness of unexpected initial infatuation, his interaction with future love, Greg 1 (Freddie Woodyatt) is a joy, the latter’s self-deprecating humour being spot-on.

The setting for their charming, initially timid, then sexually charged union being an open-mic night with Woodyatt the cheesy comic compere beyond compare. “It’s free to enter, I think they got their money’s worth,” he jokes about the talent night’s success.

As Greg 2, Rhys Taylor is fabulously fragile and needy, baring the brunt of Daniel 2’s (Taylor Rettke) struggle with alcohol and failure to achieve success as a musician, instead scratching a living as a mattress salesman. Greg 2 may have a king-sized love for Daniel, but: “He holds that guitar more than he holds me,” he reflects morosely as the relationship doomed.

As we move into stage three, the story takes a sad, but also curiously uplifting twist. Life eventually throws up the ultimate challenge to test the love of Daniel 3 (Richard Costello) and Greg 3 (Leo Andrew), but the fact that both actors elicit such pathos, pain and tragic joy in such circumstances is a credit to both. There’s a fair few reprise numbers in the show, indeed there’s a reprise of a reprise, and that usually rings creative alarm bells. Luckily, ‘Solitary Man’ is a strong enough song to stand the repetition. So too is ‘Long Stem Red Rose’ and also the outstanding ‘Don’t Get Caught In The Rain’.

This is a diverse, talented cast that works very hard for its final rewards and together with its innovative, if over convoluted format is a show well worth catching. Nice too to see Su Pollard, a patron of Above The Stag Theatre, joining in for a Hi-De-Hoedown with the cast post-show on press night."

WHATS ONSTAGE (LONDON)

"An emotional rollercoaster of a show following the love story of two men over 40 years, with a country-flavoured score that could be straight out of Nashville.
1978: Greg is an aspiring comic whose life changes forever when he hosts a college open-mic night and falls in love with Daniel, a talented young singer. But as the first fires of love turn to embers, they find themselves wrestling with a choice: pursuing their own personal ambitions or being with the man they love. For their relationship to survive, one of them will have to give up his dreams.
With echoes of Brokeback Mountain, A Star is Born and Dallas Buyers Club, Now & Then is a relatable and inventive musical, charting Greg and Daniel’s journey from youthful romance to a love shaped by sacrifice, tragedy and shared experience. Spanning the late 1970s to the present day it features gorgeous original folk and country songs, played and sung live by a cast of six actor-musicians."

FLORIDA THEATER ONSTAGE

"First, the central couple’s relationship spanning 43 years is told by three sets of paired actors often sharing the stage at the same time, each pair’s status an indirect comment on each other. Second, the folky-country score by Dennis Manning is heartfelt, lyrical, often touching – and played live on guitars by Manning and two other actors. And third, and most telling, the couple is gay. So the subtext — and it never seems paternalistic – is that homosexual love, true love, is no different than heterosexual love with its rough patches and conquering joys. This isn’t an earth-shaking revelation to most straight audiences. But for gay audiences, it must be a kind of a “finally” moment seeing this truth validated by being simply and honestly portrayed on stage in depth — the polar opposite of life depicted in The Boys in the Band."  --William Hirshman

BERKSHIRE FINE ARTS

"Certainly, this weepy, yet at times charming, touching and upbeat show has something to say. Certainly, the six-person cast largely excels. The show requires quadruple threats – performers adept at acting, singing, dancing and playing the guitar. In this debut production, the actors demonstrate clear, strong and expressive singing voices. They also disappear into characters and their guitar playing is diverse without missing a beat."  --Aaron Krause

NOW & THEN PROUDLY AFFIRMS GAY ROMANCE IS LIKE ANY OTHER (SOURCE????)

Now & Then, a world premiere musical in Wilton Manors, is a quiet gentle love story told with an inventive twist. But it’s a tale tracing the episodes of an arc so familiar that it might flirt with being boring — except for three redeeming aspects.

First, the central couple’s relationship spanning 43 years is told by three sets of paired actors often sharing the stage at the same time, each pair’s status an indirect comment on each other.

Second, the folky-country score by Dennis Manning is heartfelt, lyrical, often touching – and played live on guitars by Manning and two other actors.

And third, and most telling, the couple is gay. So the subtext — and it never seems paternalistic – is that homosexual love, true love, is no different than heterosexual love with its rough patches and conquering joys. This isn’t an earth-shaking revelation to most straight audiences (La Cage aux Folles is playing at Broward Stage Door this month). But for gay audiences, it must be a kind of a “finally” moment seeing this truth validated by being simply and honestly portrayed on stage in depth — the polar opposite of life depicted in The Boys in the Band.

This comes most clear when each of the three couples is kissing. Directed by bookwriter Ronnie Larsen, these frequent scenes are not meant to be daring, titillating, lustful, funny or exploitative. They are just poignant expressions of tender affection lasting a few seconds, as opposed to those pecks on the mouth or marathon clinches seen in many plays that self-congratulatorily trumpet that two men are kissing before your very eyes! These people love each other and it’s as simple as that.

The plot follows model-worthy Daniel #1 (Cody Jenkins), a former seminary student and would-be country music star, playing at a college open mic night. Daniel is hit on and succumbs to the uninhibitedly extravagant emcee and would-be comic Greg #1 (Conor Walton). The quirky likable odd couple fall deeply in love. Daniel plays his sensitive evocative compositions for Greg, and Greg sings impassioned internal monologues revealing more depth than his playful exterior would indicate.

Soon after, the musical moves on to the same couple in early middle-age after they have lived together for years and their dreams have stalled. Daniel #2 (Matt McClure) is frustrated selling mattresses while still hoping for a break in Nashville, and Greg #2 (Tim Evanicki) has become a pragmatic low-level bank employee.  Daniel has become an emotionally-shuttered alcoholic as Greg tries to get his love to reinvigorate their struggling relationship regardless of whether he has a music career.

Finally, we meet 62-year-old Daniel #3 (composer Manning) who has been providing steady background music since the opening scene while compassionately watching the proceedings from a perch at the top of the set. Greg #3 (Ansel Robin Thompson) is in remission from cancer. He does not share Daniel’s optimism that he will live long but he urges Daniel to buy a waterside condo. There is little doubt how their facet will play out.

It doesn’t matter how autobiographical this work may or may not be for the real Daniel Manning, although naming the central character after himself certainly raises that question. Indeed, the concept for the show is Larsen’s based on Manning’s music.

Because the universal aspects of any long-term relationship are ticked off one by one with no special insight, the show does drag on a bit. Larsen’s dialogue also contains more than its share of well-worn homilies, bromides and clichés that some skilled actors deliver with conviction and others cannot rescue with their amateur theater delivery. And we know how the middle section will turn out because we can already see the older couple still intact.

On the other hand, director Larsen stages bookwriter Larsen’s concept deftly and inventively by visually, aurally and dramatically juxtaposing these couples. When the #2 couple going through an especially tough period, we can see the younger couple deep in the glory of new-found love and the older couple caressing each other as an affirmation of a life shared together. At one point, the three Daniels advise each other, and in another, the three Gregs face mortality holding hands. In another, the younger and older couple happily trim the same Christmas tree while the middle couple quarrels during “the worst Christmas ever.” These conceits don’t always land solidly; some seem a bit forced. But when they do work, Now & Then tugs at the heartstrings.

The most consistent virtue is Manning’s heartfelt music, which gloriously meanders in a fusion of several genres. Without intentionally emulating them, it echoes early Indigo Girls, Joni Mitchell, coffeehouse folk and a hint of Grand Ol’ Opry, notable for rippling cascades of finger-picked notes along with strummed background chords that add strength and palpable dimension. Most of the songs are riffs on declarations of love. The lyrics sometimes read like a Hallmark card, especially reviewed on dry paper. Yet, partnered with the music and the performances, their sincerity cannot be mocked or challenged.

Early on, Daniel croons,
“I sing a tune
To the sound of your name
You are a long, stem, red rose
A glass of champagne
The tide
As it ebbs and flows
On the shoreline
Of my heart
You are a long, stem, red rose
And the fragrant autumn air
I long to lay beside you.”

Not that it matters, but it’s never clear whether everything are memories of Daniel #3, or whether all three eras are occurring simultaneously akin to New City Players’ Constellations, or whether divisions of time and space evaporate into meaninglessness. But the youngest couple talk about Beyonce and Greg carries a box bearing the words Amazon Prime, so there is some confusion.

Further, theater audiences are supposed to indulge artists by cutting them some slack in suspension of disbelief. But the performers playing the same role look very little like each other, don’t sound similar and are not strong enough actors to copy each other’s personas or mannerisms.

Still, the cast is undeniably engaging. Some have evocative voices like Walton, Jenkins and Evanicki (whose solos are deeply affecting). The others are perfectly serviceable, although almost everyone but Walton misses notes from time to time, some more often than others. The Daniels’ guitar playing is deft, especially Manning’s work on the 12-string.

The production is being mounted at the newly-rechristened Wilton Theater Factory – the complex just south of Five Points in Wilton Manors, founded by Abyss Theatre and expanded into two adjacent stages by Island City Stage. The upgrades by the latter include a sound system that makes musicals like this and the recent Next To Normal sound surprisingly clear without overwhelming the audience. Its execution by Abraham Oleksniaski and Joseph Martinez is flawless. Even with a limited amount of hardware to work with, lighting designer Jamie Brothman and technician Melquisedel Dominguez keep the audience era-oriented. There’s even a moment of “ka-boy” line dancing from Andrew Fiacco that plays a crucial part of the plot development.

AUDIENCE REACTIONS:

"Last night, Michael and I saw one of the best new musicals of the decade.  Now and Then Musical at The Wilton Theatre Factory -- Main Stage is amazing.  Ronnie Larsen and Dennis Manning have written a truly satisfying love story. You will laugh, you will cry, you will fall in love. The performances are great. If you haven't purchased tickets yet, don't wait. This is the real deal."

"Thank you for choosing Fort Lauderdale for premiering NOW & THEN! It was BY FAR the best gay theater production I have seen in the five years I have lived here. Don't know your plans for it's future, but, bringing it to New York sure seems in order to me. With the right success in New York, lots of tweaking and glitz (and, money, of course), I think there is real potential for bringing it "uptown" and a major triumph!"

"Now and Then is a new musical that is just terrific. The music, composed by Dennis Manning is fresh and moves the story along. The guitar accompaniment is great. Go see it and let is draw you in."


"A country western gay musical that follows a long term relationship from its coception, then through the many years' Complete with all the ups and downs life has to offer. Cast was very talented. music and songs were memorable and creatively staged. This could be the beginning of a wonderful journey for this musical. Go and be one of the people who can say they saw it when it was in wilton manors!!"


"Wow, just wow! Seeing the WORLD PREMIER of "Now & Again", was like witnessing the birth of something that you know is going to be big, very big! Congratulations to Ronnie Larsen, Dennis Manning and everyone involved with this production! Standing ovations - well deserved!"


"I give it five out of five hankies. If you have a heart and have lived a while on this planet...Now & Then, the musical will make you want to celebrate every livin' moment with your pard'ner."


"What an incredibly enjoyable evening of theater. This is an original show with fantastic music and a story that is full of heart. GO SEE THIS SHOW!"


"My experience sitting in the audience was as if I was living in the moment in each phase of the performance. My attention was kept from start to finish. Every scene flowed into another! My favorite song was "Solitary Man"! I am hoping a CD is released so I can purchase the music and listen to it over and over again. A true love story I was glad I was able to watch. Congratulations to Dennis Manning and his wonderful team. OPENING NIGHT WAS A SUCCESS!"

"WOW! Everyone should see this show. Another Ronnie Larsen production, this show is very different from Ronnie's typical productions. Although there were some very cute guys in the show, nobody got naked (the worst thing about the show) But it is Ronnie's best work to date. I cried thru most of it, yet it wasn’t depressing. It was tender, it was joyful, it was moving. I expected something more linear in the aging, but the flow back and forth thru the years was brilliantly done. The music was perfect. I was particularly impressed with Matt McClure and Tim Evanicki. Not to take away anything from the other actors, all were very good. But these two were amazing. Great voices, great acting, and a strong chemistry between them. Do yourself a favor and see this show!"


"Over the top fabulous not to be missed. I connected with music, the story, the love of two people. I cried. I laughed. The "Christmas Story.... The Sears catalog.. By the end of the show I was devastated. Thank you Dennis for such music that speaks right to my heart. This is Broadway bound."


"The musical was beautiful. Full of heart, humor and really nice songs. It’s a touching story with great performances by the actors."


"We thought this production was VERY GOOD! The story line, actors/singers, and music were all very interesting and professional. A remarkable production for a small theater company!"


"What a great time we had, enjoyed the music and the play ,loved the concept of the three stages of life and the songs that went with each one ,Bravo Bravo Bravo to all who were involved ,and to Dennis Manning who wrote the songs I'm in love with Red Rose I cant wait to here it on the air waves, loved it, loved it, loved it."


"Just got back from show now and then. First time at your theater.  Fantastic. Moving. Heart rendering. As suspected I laughed and cried.  Phenomenal actors and singing. I thought the play would progress from one stage in life to another but the use of simultaneously living life was amazing. Thanks for a great show. Keep it up."

"Simply amazing, don't miss this."


"I just left the show. To say the show was a extraordinarily  beautifully written, Broadway caliber score, with a cast that was perfect is still way below what I thought of the show. Congratulations my friend you have a huge hit. Seriously it tripled my expectations." 

"Congratulations to Dennis Manning, and the actors as well. Songs that can stand on their own, three guitars, and harmonizing voices made my ears happy, and at times pulled at my heartstrings as I unsuccessfully fought off tears of emotion. This show gave me everything I look for in a musical. Before the performance was over, I realized I must attend it again. It's a must see."


"I so much enjoyed your play. It told a very old story in a very new way. I loved it so much...I especially enjoyed the use of guitars and songs to tell the story."


"We saw Now & Then last night.  I believe this is the BEST show you have ever done.  Loved every second!  And we both cried... Our cheers to the cast."


"The show tonite was AWESOME!  Loved it! Laughed and cried! Nice job! And the music was great! Your composer out did himself!"


"Following the lives of the characters from their 20’s through their seventies by incorporating 3 sets of actors, often times on stage at the same time, is a brilliant concept.  The creative script, with the highs, the lows, the struggles, and the euphoria, all played out to original songs by Dennis Manning.  Thank you Ronnie Larsen for bringing this to our community.  I’m sure this is destined for a much larger audience. I look for forward to its continued success."