Jonathan Ross does a behind-the-scenes at Merrily We Roll Along at the Harold Pinter.
Really, go see it!!
In 1981 the Broadway musical Merrily We Roll Along was panned by critics and closed after just 15 performances. Its composer Sondheim tells #r4pm why the show is back and garnering rave reviews.
It’s because of the amazing cast and clear direction!
Maria Friedman performing “While I Still Have the Time” from The Nutty Professor. For the Marvin Hamlisch tribute New Years Eve, 2012
Two sisters who used to put on their own pretend âshowsâ as children are directing and producing an acclaimed West End musical together.
The actor-turned-director tells Rachel Cooke about her career after cancer, coming from a broken home, and rolling into the West End
Julia McKenzie, Bernadette Peters, Maria Friedman, Millicent Martin, Paula Wilcox and more sing “Broadway Baby.”
And can we please acknowledge Johnathan Pryce is the pianist? This concert is so amazing
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.
A London theatre is reviving Stephen Sondheim’s legendary Broadway bomb:
…The 1981 production of his Merrily We Roll Along was a famous disaster. Its simple story – of a successful songwriter and movie producer looking back on his life – was complicated by being told backwards. The progress from middle-aged disillusion to youthful idealism was clever, but it didn’t really work.
In his memoir Finishing the Hat, Sondheim recalls the chaos of rewrites, rethinks and cast replacements in the run-up to the Broadway opening – “the showbiz chaos which I had seen and thought I’d envied in movies like 42nd Street, Footlight Parade and the Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland musicals, but which… I had never really encountered.”
The story was so confusing that shortly before the first night director Hal Prince dressed the cast in T-shirts emblazoned with their relationship to the central character, Frank: “Ex-wife”, “Best Friend” and so on. They were not popular with audiences who had paid a lot for their seats and expected a different and less deliberately amateurish show. Sondheim recalls: “The theatre goers who didn’t leave at intermission did a lot of squirming, and with reason; they felt cheated.”
This is the point the singer Maria Friedman enters the picture. She had just starred in Sunday in the Park with George, and Sondheim invited her to star in, and work on, the new version of Merrily. With its clever, beautiful songs and intractable structure, it is a show she knows inside out. So for her professional debut as a theatre director, she is staging Merrily We Roll Along in the tiny confines of London’s Menier Chocolate Factory.
“Not only have I chosen the most difficult musical that’s probably ever been written, but I have also got the most difficult space to put it on in,” she says, laughing. But she is exhilarated by the challenge and is making two changes which she hopes will lay the ghost of the show’s difficulties to rest. The first is to reveal Frank’s charisma and talent; the second is to cast it with actors in their forties. Previous productions tended to feature young actors “dressing up”; this one will let more mature talents look back.