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Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop

New York Theatre Workshop's production of Merrily We Roll Along stars Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff, and Lindsay Mendez.

New York Theatre Workshop's production of Merrily We Roll Along officially opened last night, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff, and Lindsay Mendez. Performances began on Monday, November 21st. Read the reviews!

Spanning three decades in the entertainment business, Merrily We Roll Along charts the turbulent relationship between composer Franklin Shepard (Jonathan Groff) and his two lifelong friends-writer Mary (Lindsay Mendez) and lyricist & playwright Charley (Daniel Radcliffe). An inventive, cult-classic ahead of its time, Merrily We Roll Along features some of Stephen Sondheim's most celebrated and personal songs. Merrily We Roll Along features music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, a book by George Furth, and is based on the original play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.

The production is directed by Olivier Award winner Maria Friedman and choreographed by Tim Jackson. Maria Friedman first directed the musical at London's Menier Chocolate Factory which subsequently transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre to critical acclaim-the most five-star reviews in West End history-winning the Olivier Award for Best Musical.

The cast also includes Sherz Aletaha as Scotty/Mrs. Spencer/Auditionee, Krystal Joy Brown as Gussie, Katie Rose Clarke as Beth, Leana Rae Concepcion as Newscaster/Waitress/Auditionee, Carter Harris as Frank Jr. (alternates with Colin Keane), Colin Keane as Frank Jr. (alternates with Carter Harris), Morgan Kirner as Swing, Corey Mach as Tyler/Make-Up Artist, Talia Robinson as Meg, Reg Rogers as Joe, Amanda Rose as Swing, Jamila Sabares-Klemm as Dory/Evelyn, Brian Sears as Photographer/Bunker, Evan Alexander Smith as Swing, Christian Strange as RU/Newscaster/Reverend, Koray Tarhan as Swing, Vishal Vaidya as Jerome, Natalie Wachen as KT and Jacob Keith Watson as Terry/Mr. Spencer.

The creative team includes Sou?tra Gilmour (Scenic & Costume Design), Amith Chandrashaker (Lighting Design), Kai Harada (Sound Design), Cookie Jordan (Hair & Wig Design), Catherine Jayes (Music Supervisor), Alvin Hough, Jr. (Music Director), Jim Carnahan, CSA & Jason Thinger, CSA (Casting), Taylor Williams, CSA (Additional Casting), UnkleDave's Fight-House (Fight & Intimacy Direction) and Jhanaë K-C Bonnick (Stage Manager).

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop Jesse Green, The New York Times: With the Off Broadway run (through Jan. 22) all but sold out, and commercial producers teed up for a transfer, we may yet find out what “Merrily” can be at its best. For now, it’s just at its best so far. That means some scenes work as they never have; the Act II opener, “It’s a Hit,” which often lays an egg, is for the first time hilarious, thanks in large part to Reg Rogers as Frank and Charlie’s producer. The unlikely progress through the story of Gussie Carnegie — the producer’s secretary, then wife, then star, then ex, but in reverse — suddenly seems clear and, in Krystal Joy Brown’s fetching performance, charming if not credible. Yet at the same time, some things that used to work no longer do. The supporting characters, heavily doubled, are mostly a blur. The song “Old Friends,” which at its root is about the fatal compromises that keep people together, has a case of fake giddiness. And “Bobby and Jackie and Jack,” a comedy number about the Kennedy family that the three friends perform in a downtown club in 1960, lays the egg that “It’s a Hit” no longer does.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: It’s taken 10 years for this production to make its way from London’s Menier Chocolate Factory via an Olivier Award-stop in the the West End to New York, and the NYTW’s small stage makes it even more of a treat—we can hear the voices and harmonies close-up (orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick and music design by Kai Harada). Somehow director Maria Friedman and choreographer Tim Jackson fill the stage with pods of movement and activity as loopy, tantalizing, and exacting as the lyrics, whether it be Mary’s drunken tirade and falls, bread rolls being used as missiles, or the wonderful company lurching as one towards the audience as the Blob, into which Sondheim and Furth distilled their version of the exhausting tastemakers (“Faabulous”) who govern the cultural conversation.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: That said, there’s much to be grateful for here, not least a genuine feeling for the material that plumbs the emotional depths without wading into cheap sentiment. The three leads alone will be cause for rejoicing among the Sondheim faithful, while newcomers to this flawed but beautiful musical might be left scratching their heads over its commercial failure. With Richard Linklater’s film adaptation — starring Ben Platt, Blake Jenner and Beanie Feldstein, and shooting at regular intervals over the next decade — at least 10 years away from completion, it’s good to have the show back in what appears to be viable form to rewrite its Broadway history.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop Jackson McHenry, Vulture: Friedman’s straightforward and finely polished version, however ramshackle certain aspects of the show remain, gives Merrily new emotional depth, especially in its rendering of Frank. You feel powerfully his ache to get back to the past, which is quite an accomplishment—the guy does have some sweet digs in Bel Air.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop Johnny Oleksinski, The New York Post: Has “Merrily” finally been fixed? Not really, and it never will be. But its storied problems have not only become part of its lore, but also a messy asset in our dismal era of mechanical, assembly-line musicals produced by movie studios. “Merrily” is an affecting oddball that hits you hard emotionally, even when it creatively misses. Here’s to it. What’s like it? Damn few.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: Maria Friedman, who directed the revival currently at New York Theatre Workshop, simply seems to accept Merrily just the way it is. No messing about. And that’s why it works so beautifully.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: I ended my review of Friedman’s 2012 version by calling it “as fine a rendition of Merrily as you’ve likely seen.” What we have now is even finer. I needn’t and won’t suggest you storm the NYTW box office, as this engagement seems to have sold out within hours of going on sale. But unless I miss my guess, word of a Broadway transfer will wend our way before not much more than a day goes by, quicker’n you can say “it only gets better and stronger and deeper and nearer and simpler and freer and richer and clearer.”

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop David Cote, Observer: Nearly decade on, Friedman’s elegant, emotionally searching revival is Off Broadway and it’s remarkably satisfying—and sold-out, thanks to ex-Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe (a talented comic crooner) as angsty Charley. One also must factor in cult adoration among musical-theater fans (of all ages), in addition to the inspired casting of super-charismatic Jonathan Groff as Franklin and iron-lunged Lindsay Mendez as Mary. Operating at their prime, these ace performers anchor the show and sing the daylights out of the scrumptious score. Don’t be surprised if a Broadway transfer is announced before the January 21 closing. So: Did Friedman fix the flop, widely believed to yoke one of the master’s catchiest, most touching scores to one of the sketchiest books? Pardon my Sondheimian ambivalence: yes and no.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop Juan A. Ramirez, Theatrely: The backwards chronology is not the problem; it’s that the book is thuddingly literal, filled with cliches, and runs its thinly sketched characters on the same autopilot tour of The Cost of Success we’ve been playing since the Year One. That we know just where the story will end doesn’t help, of course, sapping any possibility for catharsis, but there is still room for nuance and deft characterization to surprise us. Furth and Sondheim do not fill that in. Thus the entire show hinges on believing the trio’s ties, and that a combination of the unruly sands of time and the fickle fingers of fate were able to undo them. Despite the main cast’s able efforts, they do not pull this off. Each has their own charm, Radcliffe especially shining with a vibrantly angsty energy, but I never really believed these people were ever close, or held each other to the lofty artistic standards they did back in their youth.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop Thom Geier, The Wrap: Given the A-list cast and the size of the space, this “Merrily” has become one of the hottest tickets of the season — and it’s easy to imagine a Broadway transfer in its future. Friedman works hard to blur the weaknesses of Sondheim’s biggest flop, and she mostly succeeds in delivering a psychologically coherent study of how youthful aspirations and good intentions can evolve over time into something less rosy but no less real. Still, even a perfect version of this material is unlikely to win over casual theater fans. “Merrily” is a show that is more likely to be admired than fully embraced.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop Joe Dziemianowizc, New York Theatre Guide: Sondheim is perennially popular on NYC stages. This show’s cast has made the run at New York Theatre Workshop a sold-out event. Friedman and her leads don’t solve the nagging issue of convincingly showing the besties’ profound connection, but the acting trio’s chemistry could deepen in time.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: This Merrily is in an ironic position: It’s too big of a hit. Tickets for the limited Off Broadway run sold out more or less instantly, which means that we can only now hope for a Broadway transfer. This is a show that makes demands of its audience, perhaps sometimes unreasonable ones. But as Charley sings during a loving argument with his friends: “What’s the point of demands you can meet?” Friedman’s production meets the audience halfway, and a Broadway audience today just might be able to make up the difference as couldn’t in 1981. Cross your fingers: It finally might be Merrily’s time.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop Alexis Soloski, The Guardian: It’s doubtful that anyone will get it righter than director Maria Friedman. A former actor and a sensitive and lucid interpreter of Sondheim’s work, she lends clarity and humanity to the revival of Merrily now playing at New York Theatre Workshop. Informed by her 2012 Menier Chocolate Factory production, this version stars Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez as a trio of friends disillusioned after two decades amid the gutters and stars of Hollywood and Broadway. Friedman’s interpretation will probably be regarded as a gold standard. But even here, despite that indelible sour-sweet score, the gold is short a few carats. Some choices, it would seem, can’t be unmade, no matter how acute our hindsight.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Opens At New York Theatre Workshop
Average Rating: 79.2%

To read more reviews, click here!


Related Stories
VIDEO: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Cast Answer Audience Questions After Cancelled Performance Photo
On December 26, Merrily We Roll Along was postponed due to technical issues, causing the audience to wait for an hour before it was finally canceled. As a result of a cold front during the holiday weekend, necessary production equipment froze up. Despite this, Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff, and Lindsay Mendez took time out of their busy schedules to give the audience a private talkback about Merrily! Watch a roundup of videos from the special night.

Original MERRILY Cast Members Liz Callaway & Jason Alexander Reunite Photo
See a photo of Liz Callaway and Jason Alexander, who both starred in the original Broadway production of Merrily We Roll Along in 1981, reuniting at Callaway's To Steve With Love at Feinstein's at Vitello's.

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Will Transfer to Broadway in Fall 2023 Photo
The Off-Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Merrily We Roll Along will transfer to Broadway in Fall 2023. The production is currently running at New York Theatre Workshop through January 22, after its sold-out runs at London's Menier Chocolate Factory and the Olivier Award-winning West End transfer produced by Sonia Friedman Productions.

Photos: First Look at Radcliffe, Groff & Mendez in MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Photo
Get a first look at photos of New York Theatre Workshop's production of Merrily We Roll Along starring Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff, and Lindsay Mendez.


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