NY1 Theater Review: "Merrily We Roll Along"
When the Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical "Merrily We Roll Along" debuted on Broadway back in 1981 it ran for only 16 performances. Over the last three decades the show has re-appeared in various new incarnations and now another re-worked version is being presented as a concert staging courtesy of the New York City Center Encores series. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
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It's been a bumpy road for "Merrily We Roll Along". This problem child in the Sondheim canon, written with George Furth, famously flopped on Broadway in 1981. After much tweaking, it's back in New York now, albeit in an abbreviated Encores production. And under the helm of Sondheim collaborator James Lapine, I can report this challenging musical is finally back on track.
It spans the years between 1957 and '76, only the scenes move in reverse, with the show starting in 1976 and working backwards. When it begins we find that three former best friends have parted ways and grown disillusioned. Franklin Shepard, the one most likely to succeed, is a gifted songwriter who gave up the dream, to become a successful movie producer. Mary Flynn, suffering years of unrequited love for her handsome friend, is a novelist endowed with a toxic blend of acid tongue and too much drink. And Franklin's songwriting partner, lyricist Charley Kringas, is a nebbishy but brilliant writer resentful that his best buddy sold out.
Sondheim's wonderful score movingly captures his characters' complexities from middle-aged bitterness to youthful innocence. And he gets a loving assist from orchestrator Jonathan Tunick and music director Rob Berman.
With just 11 days of rehearsal, Lapine's intricate production is astonishingly complete. Special mention to Wendall K. Harrington's magical projections.
Celia Keenan-Bolger is terrific channeling Dorothy Parker, though her vocals seemed strained. Lin-Manuel Miranda, light years from "In The Heights" delivers convincingly. And Colin Donnell last seen in "Anything Goes" proves he can indeed do anything on a big stage.
In his memoir "Finishing The Hat", Stephen Sondheim writes extensively about "Merrily We Roll Along". Are they finished with this problematic musical? Not quite sure but they are certainly well on their way.