Award-winning husband-and-wife creative team bring tale of shared human struggle to the Playhouse stage
“Up Here,” a new musical comedy with book, music and lyrics by husband-and-wife Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez is said to go where no musical has gone before. “Up Here” is on stage through Sept. 6 at La Jolla Playhouse on the UC San Diego campus.
The Lopez team won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Original Song, “Let It Go,” from the Disney-animated film, “Frozen.”
Lopez (“The Book of Mormon,” “Avenue Q”) is the youngest of just 12 people who’ve won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award — and the only person to win all four within a decade! He co-wrote two songs for the Disney Channel animated series “Phineas and Ferb.”
His wife, Kristen, is co-creator of the Drama Desk Award-winning, Broadway musical “In Transit.”
Matt Bittner (“Be A Good Little Widow,” “As You Like It,” “All Is Calm,” “Sweeney Todd,” Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park’s “Much Ado About Nothing,”) plays the lead role as 30-something computer repairman Dan, who struggles with an attraction to perky T-shirt designer Lindsay (Betsy Wolfe).
In seeing “Up Here,” Bittner believes, “audiences will understand that we’re all made of the same stuff. We’re all going through the same struggles to exist in the world and getting to know other people is truly possible because we are so interconnected.”
Bittner said he identifies with Dan. “As I started reading the scenes in preparing for the audition, it felt really right for me. I was so happy when I was brought in to audition. Dan tends to have a bit more commentary on the world than he has with the actual world itself. It’s like his inner storm overpowers his ability to get the things he’s hoping for out of life. I can identify with that in feelings about my chances of happiness.
“That seems to be his struggle throughout the show. He’s trying to really live in the world with other people and not just the world that exists in his own mind.”
“Up Here” is directed by Tony Award-nominee Alex Timbers (Broadway’s “Rocky,” Off-Broadway’s “Here Lies Love,” Playhouse’s “Peter and the Starcatcher.”) Bittner said he’s fond of and familiar with Timber’s work.
“His ‘Peter and the Starcatcher,’ was one of my favorite shows in New York,” Bittner said. “I saw the final performance at the New York Theatre workshop before it went to Broadway. I loved the show. It was so special how clean, creative and simple an ensemble work it was. I also laughed a lot.”
In “Up Here,” Bittner said one of his favorite scenes is well constructed and described as a love triangle between a guy and a girl and the guy’s consciousness. “Betsy beautifully sings this amazing song that gives you just enough of what’s going on that you almost wish the song would continue longer,” he said.
If you go: “Up Here” runs through Sept. 6 in the Mandell Weiss Theatre at the La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, on the UC San Diego campus. Tickets from $25 at (858) 550-1010 or lajollaplayhouse.org