By Stanford Friedman

When a musical is titled From Here, it is clear that the locale of the story is going to be crucial. That is certainly the case in writer/director Donald Rupe’s sincere if structurally shaky work, but even more essential is the concept of distance, in all its forms: physical, temporal and emotional, as well as that ever-tricky space between actor and audience.

The production itself is 1,000 miles distant from where it began. First performed by the Renaissance Theatre Company in Orlando, the entire Florida troupe has set up shop at The Pershing Square Signature Center and its 13 members are singing their guts out to prove that a seasoned regional staging can drive home a successful Off-Broadway run. There are roadblocks.

Set in 2016, the play follows, evaluates and is frequently narrated by Daniel (Blake Aburn) a 34-year old gay man with a large circle of friends and lovers. Early on we learn that the gang often hang out at Pulse, the nightclub that, also in 2016, would become the site of this country’s second most deadly mass shooting. So, from the start, a clock is ticking for the audience while Daniel and his friends remain oblivious to the impending tragedy. This disparity has the unfortunate consequence of making all of Daniel’s personal problems feel wholly unimportant.

While apparently honing close to Rupe’s real life experiences, Daniel’s issues are familiar fodder. There are some self-love difficulties with which he’s coping, or, as he puts it, “I hate my body…but I’ve got a pocketful of Altoids, Tums and poppers, so I’m ready to go!” His larger concern is his relationship with his mother (Becca Southworth) who is disapproving of her son’s lifestyle and passive-aggressively blaming him for her husband abandoning their marriage. New Yorkers in July might have trouble empathizing with what Daniel considers his rough upbringing in “their horrible one-bedroom apartment where there was only air conditioning in the living room.”

Daniel’s romantic relationships are also prominently on display. First there is Michael (Jullien Aponte), his partner of seven years, who dumps him just when Daniel is expecting a marriage proposal. Fortunately, it takes only one funny ditty for them to come to terms with being just friends. Soon enough he is dating Ricky (Omar Cardona) who teaches Daniel about having compassion for one’s mom, and who is quickly accepted by Daniel’s friends including sassy Adam (Justin Jimenez) and gal pal Jordan (Michelle Coben) whose cabaret act includes the anthem, “Gay is Better,” with lyrics like, “Homos—Have good chromosomos/I prefer homos! Let’s give them a hand!”

Abum finds ways to make Daniel likable, even in the face of some cringe-worthy dialog (“Time and her lover, Regret, dance circles around us, their loyal subjects.”). Southworth looks young to be the mother of a thirtysomething, but sings beautifully, as does Cardona who unleashes a stirring bilingual ballad.

And so it goes for nearly the first hour of this hour and 45 minute show as the June 12 attack draws ever-nearer. When it arrives, it comes via a phone call. Daniel and friends hear about it second-hand with none of them actually present at the event. In a monologue, Daniel confides to the audience, “I don’t know how to talk about this. In some ways, it feels like it isn’t my story to tell.” Indeed, it is in some ways not, leaving the audience on its heels as to how to react. Honor the truth and pain of the situation as the playwright experienced it, or regret that we bear witness to only acquaintances of the victims?

And one other key question: How do you proceed with a romantic comedy after a tragedy intervenes? The answer is, you don’t. The show’s final scene totally shifts in structure and tone. All of the characters come together, as family, to relive happy memories of their days at Pulse, and to take measure of the distance that they, and their city, have traveled.

From Here – Book, music, lyrics and direction by Donald Rupe 

WITH: Blake Aburn (Daniel), Becca Southworth (Becca), Omar Cardona (Ricky), Michelle Coben (Jordan), Jullien Aponte (Michael), Justin Jimenez (Adam), Chris Keough (Landon), Kendall Leamy (Kat), Jerry Mullings (David), Dee Quintero (Sara), Devin Skorupski (Jacob), Kyle Ashe Wilkinson (Josh) and Janine Papin.

Arrangements and orchestrations by Jason M. Bailey. Noah Baez (keys), Bryce Hayes (bass guitar), Chris Kampmeier (drums) and Matthew Lynxwiler (electric and acoustic guitar).

Scenic and lighting design by Philip Lupo, sound design by Matt Craig, costume design and stage management by J. Marie Bailey, band vocal direction by Chris Keough. Choreography is by Adonus Mabry. Renaissance Theatre Company (The Ren) at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W 42nd St., Through Sunday, August 11. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes