Tony Award-winning director John Doyle, who has previously staged Broadway revivals of Stephen Sondheim's SWEENEY TODD and COMPANY has just directed the composer-lyricist's musical MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park which runs through March 31 and opened this week.
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park is where Doyle debuted his actor-musician production of Sondheim and George Furth's COMPANY which transferred to Broadway in 2006. The production earned Doyle the Tony Award for Best Revival and a nomination for Best Direction. Has he struck gold again? Let's see what the local critics had to say...
Jackie Demaline, Cincinnati Enquirer: Doyle has Franklin looking back at his life rather than living in it, although it isn’t a particularly honest look. It constricts Gets’ performance, who is strong in the first scene in 1976, but then never changes, until he lightens slightly as his youngest self at musical’s end, in 1957. It removes the aching humanity from “Merrily” – no, we can’t change the past but when Franklin is living in the moments which coulda-woulda-shoulda changed his life, you root for him to get it right. You know he doesn’t, but it hurts. In a good way. This “Merrily” doesn’t invite us to care. Baker and Jenkins are terrific. Mary and Charley have both believed in Franklin for too long and they wear their broken dreams on their sleeves.
Rick Pender, CityBeat: This show has long been viewed as one of Sondheim’s few failures, but you wouldn’t know that from this staging: It’s a showbiz tale of success that has not led to happiness. We start at the end, with three former friends at one another’s throats, and then trace back to their earliest moments together. With great music, a stylized set piled with pages of music (the central character is a composer) and some intriguing decisions by Doyle about elevating a realistic tale to something more deeply emotional, this version of Merrily is a great choice for anyone who loves musicals.
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