Merrily We Roll Along is a musical with a book by George Furth and lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim. It is based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.
Furth and Sondheim retained the basic structure and overall theme of the play but updated it to encompass the period from 1957 to 1976. The story revolves around Franklin Shepard who, having once been a talented composer of Broadway musicals, has now abandoned his friends and his songwriting career to become a producer of Hollywood movies. Like the play, the musical begins at the height of his Hollywood fame and moves backwards in time, showing snapshots of the most important moments in Frank's life that shaped the man that he is today. The musical utilizes a chorus that sings reprises of the title song to transition the scenes.
The musical ran on Broadway for 52 previews and 16 performances in 1981 and marked the end of the Harold Prince-Sondheim collaborations until Bounce in 2003.
Maria Friedman directed a revival of the musical at London's Menier Chocolate Factory, which opened on 28 November 2012 and transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End on 1 May 2013. The principals in this production were Mark Umbers, Jenna Russell and Damian Humbley. The revival won the Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical in the 2012 Critics' Circle Theatre Awards.
It was filmed and broadcast to select cinemas in 2013 by Digital Theatre before being released on their consumer and educational platforms.
CAST INCLUDES: Damian Humbley as Charley Kringas, Olivier award winner Jenna Russell as Mary Flynn and Mark Umbers as Franklin Shepard. Plus Josefina Gabrielle as Gussie Carnegie, Glyn Kerslake as Joe Josephson, Clare Foster as Beth Spencer and Zizi Strallen as Meg Kincaid.
‘Watching this assured and original show more than 30 years after its ill-fated premiere it’s clear that far from being a flop, Merrily We Roll Along is actually one of Sondheim’s most startling and affecting achievements.’
The Daily Telegraph
‘Although it famously flopped on Broadway in 1981, this Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical has been re-evaluated in fine British revivals at Leicester Haymarket in 1992 and London’s Donmar in 2000. Now comes a superb production by Maria Friedman, astonishingly making her directorial debut, that makes you wonder how anyone could ever have doubted its quality.’’
‘Atmospherically coloured with precise, mood-shifting designs (Soutra Gilmour), tight Fosse-esque period choreography (Tim Jackson) and terrific musical direction (Catherine Jayes), this is a production of crushing beauty about crushed lives that paradoxically offers an exhilarating reclamation of a one-time flop. Could the next stop be Broadway?’
‘Franklin is the central character. He is unsympathetic, and there’s no getting round the fact. But Mark Umbers makes him interesting, even at his most arrogant and aloof. Expressive tenor Damian Humbley is a tender Charley, and Jenna Russell’s Mary oozes pathos. Their tangled emotions are vividly realised, and poised support comes from Clare Foster and Josefina Gabrielle.’