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Rarely seen photos of original MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG

morosco Profile Photo
morosco
Broadway Legend
joined:7/10/04
justincharacter Profile Photo
justincharacter
Broadway Star
joined:6/11/13
Never mind...



Updated On: 6/23/14 at 10:48 PM
morosco Profile Photo
morosco
Broadway Legend
joined:7/10/04

Oof. The designs for this show (especially the costumes that were compromised by displaying the characters names) were awful!

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ljay889
Broadway Legend
joined:8/4/04
Umm, it looks like my high school production of Godspell. Yikes.
#sadandtransparent
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
^^^^^ I believe that was Prince's original concept for the show: it would not only be performed by young people, but be designed to resemble a high school production. How he expected audiences paying Broadway prices to differentiate between Prince's "pro" h.s. production and a real, amateur production, I do not know.

But early previews featured a swimming pool made of blue construction paper that ripped loudly as a woman fell through it. (The show then made a joke by having her poke her head out of the hole and spit out a mouthful of water.)

MERRILY started as multiple "concepts" in search of a show. They cleaned up the concepts, but IMO never found the show in the original production.
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Phyllis Rogers Stone
Broadway Legend
joined:9/16/07

http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/23c41d70-daa7-0130-6d50-58d385a7bbd0

I can't get that picture to post here. They all look horrified except for the guy on the bottom left.
Updated On: 6/24/14 at 12:23 AM
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FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
Does Hal Prince ever wonder where he left his glasses?
'First the Bastille than the butt plug.' -- M ______
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Musical Master
Broadway Star
joined:4/28/13
When it comes to a production you sit there like... "What were they thinking???" But it has since been redeemed as time went on.
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Charley Kringas Inc
Stand-by
joined:8/12/11
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South Fl Marc
Broadway Legend
joined:6/23/04
"But it has since been redeemed as time went on."

Of course it's been redeemed, but it's mostly been redeemed by people who didn't sit through. I remember thinking as I watched it "WTF ". A couple of the performances were really good, but for the most part it was like watching a High School Production. It didn't work. The actual physical production was ugly, the costumes laughable. It's the perfect example of how a production can sink a good show.
Now living in DC. I really have to change my name on the board.
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
^^^^^^ And yet most of us have now seen the later version in or on bare stages, minimalist productions and even film. In my opinion, it still doesn't work--but the music is gorgeous!
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Charley Kringas Inc
Stand-by
joined:8/12/11
It was an off-Broadway idea, let's put it that way, and it probably could've creatively flourished better in a more welcoming environment.
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
There's no question that it benefits from intimacy.
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Esther2
Swing
joined:8/16/12
I saw the show with the paper swimming pool. It is forever burned into my brain. And after all this time, it still makes me smile.

I love the music so much...I keep seeing every production I can in hopes that they have finally figured out how to make it work. They never do, but I'll keep going back.
GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Obviously, so do I, Esther. I might have appreciated the paper swimming pool more, but it was so close to the top of the show I was still figuring out the rules of the stage world. (It was the initial preview so I even wondered at first if they hadn't had time to load in the real set and costumes!)

And then, of course, no moment matched it for sheer zaniness during the next 3 hours.
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JBroadway
Leading Actor
joined:4/6/12
I personally thought the London production that was recently filmed worked quite well The only other exposure I've had to the whole show was a youth theatre (not high school, but with high school-aged kids). Surprisingly, they really pulled it off! It seemed like a professional production.
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
JBroadway, I won't speak for Esther2, but what *I* meant is that no matter how well MERRILY is performed, the script itself doesn't really work. In my view because it goes backward, it cannot by definition represent action, only dramatic irony. And I don't think even the best tunes justify 3 hours of irony.

I thought the filmed production was rather good, actually.
SFFrontRow
Featured Actor
joined:3/19/05
Just curious, have never seen the show live but have the original LP cast recording (how old am I!!!??). I keep hearing the issue was the book and the reverse time chronology caused all kinds of confusion for the audience.

Has anyone ever tried to produce this by changing the chronological order to go forward in time? Would that solve all the "book issues" or were there other issues at work with the book that putting it in a "going forward" chronological order would not fix?
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morosco
Broadway Legend
joined:7/10/04
I think changing the chronological order is strictly forbidden by the authors.
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wonderfulwizard11
Broadway Legend
joined:7/30/05
From a musical standpoint, reversing the chronology wouldn't work- Our Time as the opening number? Even though the backwards structure is problematic in certain ways, there is no way this show would work in chronological order.
I am a firm believer in serendipity- all the random pieces coming together in one wonderful moment, when suddenly you see what their purpose was all along.
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
"I think changing the chronological order is strictly forbidden by the authors."

Which is to say, "Yes, somebody tried."

My personal opinion is that MERRILY is rather thin stuff, backwards or forwards. Why is producing necessarily more shallow than composing? Just because Charlie says so? Some of the great producers were just as important to their shows' end products as composers. And, regardless, one doesn't do you much good (in a musical) without the other.

Life is long, roads turn (as the show itself repeatedly reminds us) and friendships don't always survive until death. Yeah? So? This is news to whom other than 20-year-olds watching satellites from rooftops? Is this even a bad thing? Not unless one worships inertia.

Divorce is often painful. I assume this to be true, but, again, hardly news.

If MERRILY says anything, it seems to be that the folly (yes, that word again) of clinging to past relationships (old loves, childhood friends) only prevents one from enjoying the present. And MERRILY says it without the flash and wit of Sondheim's other show on the subject.




Updated On: 6/25/14 at 05:56 PM
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Mr. Nowack
Broadway Star
joined:2/2/14
It's really one of the worst musicals in that the brilliance of the score is really no match for the story it tells.
I was previously known as Mr. Nowak (Joined: 5/20/13).
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Esther2
Swing
joined:8/16/12
GavestonPS, that is exactly what I meant. And your thoughts about the thin script are also my thoughts...but, as usual, you said it much better than I could. (Which is why I usually read and don't write). It's just with this show, the music and the theme of old friends speaks to me. This is why I'm usually so disappointed after seeing a production.

I did like the filmed version. I also liked the version at Arena Stage in Washington, DC a thousand years ago starring Victor Garber. Still, the show unfortunately doesn't work.
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Charley Kringas Inc
Stand-by
joined:8/12/11
The biggest issue for me is that they never really break away from the flimsy Kaufman-Hart play, which is even shallower, and fell doubly hard into the trap of giving Gussie a villain role, particularly in the increasingly clinical rewrites. The only message we get at the end of the show is "don't be a sell-out", which is a pretty lame one, because everything that happens to Frank is so obvious. Life is so much more insidious in how it leads us astray, so we never get that scary-sad emotional realization that it seems to want to give us (I always think of "Lament" from Evita).

Also, they tried to preview it on Broadway, which was a disastrously stupid idea. If you're doing something unique, funky, and weird, don't test it out half-finished (and full-priced) in front of the harshest critics.
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Charley, I know Prince and Sondheim have long blamed catty word-of-mouth for the show's failure. But the very same snarkmeisters were the ones who caught a train to Boston, New Haven or Philadelphia so they could come back to Manhattan and be the first to say Herman's/Rodger's/Styne's new show was a disaster!

I've yet to read anything where any of the creative staff admits the show's inherent problems.

I love the phrase "increasingly clinical rewrites". So true, particularly when one recalls the pathos of Mary's original "Not a Day Goes By", and the still-haunting "Hills of Tomorrow".

***

Esther2, you sell yourself short. I so appreciate your posts here (and not just because we agree).

Reprise-LA did a staged reading with Hugh Panaro (and Teri Hatcher surprisingly good as Gussie) that was so beautifully sung it was wonderful. Show still didn't work, but I never once checked my watch.
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Mr. Nowack
Broadway Star
joined:2/2/14
Yeah, what happened to "Hills Of Tomorrow" in more recent versions? I've always thought that the original framing device sounded like it could have worked, and could even allow for some sort of closure on Frank's story (not that the original production seems to have done that). I also think that this type of story would work better with a framing device, rather than just the musical transitions.

And it really is a great song for those moments.
I was previously known as Mr. Nowak (Joined: 5/20/13).

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