I recently wrote about the 30th Anniversary of the opening of the show on Broadway. Read my posting about that here. This is yet another show that has an amazing score but suffered from book problems. Fortunately an original cast recording was made and anyone who has heard it but never saw a production of the show will most likely wonder why the original Broadway production didn't run longer. The main conceit of the show, and the play the musical was based on, is to show what happens to three close friends at the start of the show, with them basically all disillusioned and some not talking to the others and then go backwards a couple of years at a time to show how they got that way, with the show ending with a scene that shows how the three friends first met, all three of them full of hopes and dreams. I've talked about all of that in my previous blog post, so let's get straight to my review of this production.
|Keenan-Bolger, Donnell and Miranda|
|Wolfe, Miranda, Donnell, Keenan-Bolger and Grupper|
|Donnell and Stanley|
Overall Lapine's direction was fine, but the large ensemble cast needed to be better staged as with the small stage space they sometimes got in the way of the main characters. This made it somewhat hard for us to determine who to focus on, especially in some key moments, particularly the end of the show.
Merrily We Roll Along is still a show with a book that needs some help but the many changes made to the show over the years have helped to better focus it. The ending, which is really the beginning, with the Sondheim gem "Our Time" is still an emotional, amazingly touching song and there really isn't one bad song in the score. As I said in my other posting, it is one of those shows that will be continually tried over and over again to get right due mainly to the rich and fulfilling Sondheim score at it's core. And while this Encores production wasn't able to deliver on all fronts, it was extremely nice to hear that score with this cast and see this show again, even if the problems with the book of the show are still not quite resolved.
Broadway.com feature with clips from the show and interviews:
"Old Friends" - rehearsal video with Donnell, Keenan-Bolger and Miranda: