When Merrily We Roll Along opened on Broadway after 52 previews, it only ran for 16 more performances. While it may not have been truly beloved then, the show is now a cult classic and one of Sondheim's most beloved works. Now, Fiasco Theater and Roundabout have presented a new revival of Merrily. It reminds the audience that at it's core, Merrily We Roll Along is about friendship, show business, the American Dream, and what happens when they are at odds with each other.
Fiasco's version of Merrily We Roll Along, blends two goals of Roundabout; to present enduring classics and brave new works, by doing so in one. This is not the Merrily that was originally on Broadway. Instead, it has been cut down to a fast 1h45min run time, and incorporates material from the 1934 play that the show was original based on. The production has the blessing of Sondheim, as well as the approval of the original cast, who attended an early preview.
This production of Merrily is perfect in the sense that it will introduce a new generation to this often forgotten Sondheim score. While purists of the musical who prefer it in its full two-act form may not be as pleased, I think its strengths come from the changes. The smaller cast and shorter run time help with the pacing of the show, making even scenes with more dialogue feel faster. The cast is also in synch with one another, and play off each other well in every scene, whether as their respective characters or on the few occasions they act as an ensemble.
With great new orchestrations from Alexander Gemignani, a stunning set from Derek McLane, and stellar design elements all around; on top of the already good performances, this production of Merrily should not be missed. If, like many, you have never seen the show, you will leave the show with a happy feeling, as well as be humming the score for at least a week.