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‘Merrily We Roll Alongside’ at New York Theatre WorkshopFrequent Enterprise Traveler

The forged of “Merrily We Roll Alongside”

Point out the Sondheim-Furth musical “Merrily We Roll Alongside” to some and it’ll elicit groans.  “It’s not my favourite,” a buddy and drama critic stated to me in hushed tones.

Certainly, after garnering damaging overview after damaging overview, “Merrily” lasted simply 16 performances after its opening. In 1981.  It was a flop. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a guide by George Furth – and a narrative arc based mostly on a 1934 play of the identical title by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart – the musical had been conceived by theater royalty but it garnered just one Tony nomination (for greatest authentic rating) and gained a Drama Desk award for greatest lyrics.

Since then, the present has been extensively rejiggered a number of occasions.  It obtained a reasonably good reception with a 1994 off-Broadway revival – which I loved immensely – and now has been considerably reworked by director Maria Friedman and offered at an off-Broadway manufacturing staged on the New York Theatre Workshop.

The set of “Merrily We Roll Alongside”

Friedman’s magic made this manufacturing the most well liked ticket of the season and a fall 2023 switch to Broadway has already been introduced.

For the uninitiated, the present tells the story of how three pals – and their lives – change over a 20-year interval.  It focuses largely on Franklin Shepard (Jonathan Groff), a gifted composer who, over 20 years, abandons his two closest pals (Daniel Radcliffe as Charley Kringas and Lindsay Mendez as Mary Flynn)  and musical profession to grow to be a big-shot Hollywood producer.  Simply as within the Kaufman-Hart play, the present’s story strikes backwards in time, beginning in 1976 at a low level within the pals’ relationship and ending in 1957, when the ties that bind them are simply starting to kind.

For one, the present is completely forged.  It takes a sure form of expertise to have the ability to carry out roles the place one de-ages 20 years in the middle of two hours and half-hour and Friedman’s reframing of the present stored me on the sting of my seat despite the fact that I do know the precise plot – what there’s of 1 – backwards and forwards, or is it forwards and backwards on this case?

Groff’s Franklin Shepard is clearly a hack, with an ex-wife, a present Broadway-star spouse, and a 3rd spouse on the way in which, but he devolves again into the promising theater composer he as soon as was in 1957.  Radcliffe’s Charley Kringas, who in a nationally televised meltdown on the “As we speak” present on NBC (brightly-hued peacock included) triggered an incurable rift within the two’s working partnership and friendship, whereas Mendez’ Mary Flynn is the epitome of an embittered drama critic and washed-up novelist who by no means noticed a bottle of booze she didn’t care to choose up.

Friedman has made the script sound extra human and, by doing so, made the characters a bit extra human as properly.

The set – Soutra Gilmour did the implausible scenic and costume design – is meant to symbolize Frank’s mid-century trendy Bel Air home but it surely’s adaptable sufficient to be transformed into different areas together with the boarding space and gangway of a ship.  The costumes – set off warning: there’s loads of plaid – make it clear all through the present who’s portraying whom as Frank is nearly at all times in a black swimsuit, Charley rocks it in argyle, and Mary is in a wide range of completely different outfits that defy description..

Tim Jackson’s snappy choreography with music directed by Alvin Hough, Jr. retains the viewers merrily rolling alongside and the sound (with sound design by Kai Harada and Dave Anzuelo) is worthy of a live performance corridor, not a 198-seat theater within the East Village.


Merrily We Roll Alongside
By January 22, 2023
New York Theatre Workshop
79 East 4th Road
New York, N.Y. 10003
Working time: 2 hours half-hour with one interval
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(Picture: Accura Media Group)



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