Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along – Dazzling
Friendship.  Choices.  Compromise and Integrity.  Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along explores these issues — in a musical format — in a reworked version of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s original play about a man who has lost the idealistic values of his youth.  Told in song and in reverse chronological time, Merrily is a wonderfully inventive evening of musical theatre.

In its initial Broadway run in 1981, Merrily closed after only 16 performances.  Maria Friedman’s new production (in a thrilling directorial debut, no less) leaves this viewer wondering why?  While set in “period” 1976 back to 1957, the piece feels fresh, vibrant, relevant and compelling.  And it stays with you.  Like Sondheim’s lyric within it, “Not a day goes by, not a single day/But, you’re somewhere a part of my life/And it looks like you’ll stay.”  The piece leaves a mark.

Such masterwork lyrics pepper Merrily, and the score is a masterpiece.   In this spare production, we are taken on an emotionally-charged journey through the once-loving, now rocky lives of three close friends.  The play winds backwards in time, exploring how the choices one makes changes everything and everyone we love.

This production at London’s Gielgud Theatre and telecast worldwide on CinemaLive and Digital Theatre via Fathom Events to a theatre near you is a must see.   The cast is exceptional.  Led by Mark Umbers (Franklin), Jenna Russell (Mary) and Damian Humbley (Charlie), three decades pass in reverse in the “take-no-prisoners” entertainment industry as we witness the changing relationships of these three close friends.  While a bit stereotypical with Franklin as the sellout Dorian Gray, Charlie the ever-integrious artist with potential gay feelings for Frank, and Mary the somewhat pathetic fag hag in the mix, the storyline is, nonetheless compelling.  Above all, the music is powerful.  And no one writes lyrics like Sondheim.  In this intimate live broadcast of the theatrical work, Sondheim’s work feels even more clever, inventive, and powerful.   It is a dazzling evening at the theatre and a total must-see.  For more information go to!merrily-we-roll-along/more-info/details

Armin’s Grade: A

Theatre Review by Armin Callo, Contributing Editor

Visit, and “like” us on Facebook