Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think?

Merrily We Roll Along officially opens tonight, October 10, following a red-carpet Opening Night celebration held on Sunday, October 8.  

By: Oct. 10, 2023
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Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think?
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Merrily We Roll Along officially opens tonight, October 10, following a red-carpet Opening Night celebration held on Sunday, October 8.  

Merrily We Roll Along is directed by multi-Olivier Award® winner Maria Friedman, features music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, a book by George Furth, and is based on the original play by George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart

Starring Daniel Radcliffe as Charley Kringas, Jonathan Groff as Franklin Shepard, and Lindsay Mendez as Mary Flynn, Merrily We Roll Along also features Krystal Joy Brown as Gussie Carnegie, Katie Rose Clarke as Beth Shepard, and Reg Rogers as Joe Josephson. The company includes Max RackenbergBrady WagnerSherz AletahaMaya BoydLeana Rae ConcepcionMorgan KirnerKen KrugmanCorey MachTalia RobinsonAmanda RoseJamila Sabares-KlemmBrian SearsEvan Alexander Smith, Christian StrangeKoray TarhanVishal VaidyaNatalie Wachen, and Jacob Keith Watson.

Read the reviews below!

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Jesse Green, The New York Times: Radcliffe’s wit and modesty, combined with Mendez’s zing and luster, provide perfect settings for what is now (as it has never been previously) the inarguably central performance. Groff, always a compelling actor, here steps up to an unmissable one. With his immense charisma turned in on itself, he seems to sweat emotion: ambition, disappointment and, most frighteningly, a terrible frozen disgust.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Greg Evans, Deadline: Not that this new production of Merrily completely fills in and smoothes out the musical’s legendary potholes, but it certainly helps us step around them without too much effort or frustration. You’d be hard-pressed to imagine a better Merrily We Roll Along.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Watching the show on Broadway, I found myself concentrating less on Mendez and Radcliffe’s back-to-back screeds and drawn more to Groff, who almost singlehandedly, and in a very quiet way, makes this revival drive forward while going backward on all eight cylinders. He plays off the over-the-top performances of his two costars — who bring a sly Oliver-and-Hardy chemistry to the stage, Radcliffe being Stan to Mendez’s Ollie. Mendez entertains us with her nasty one-liners and Radcliffe stops the show with his powerful, yet nuanced rendition of “Franklin Shepard, Inc.”

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Matt Windman, amNY: The production, which has received a few significant visual and musical upgrades since its Off-Broadway debut, is probably the most convincing, coherent, and compelling rendition of “Merrily” to date, making it the best candidate for its Broadway return. For the show’s many devoted fans (of which I am certainly one), this production is not just a triumph but a homecoming and a vindication.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Tim Teeman, Daily Beast: The Tony-winning (for Carousel) Mendez, Radcliffe and Groff share a terrific collective chemistry that roots and animates the show. That does not mean the transfer of this Sonia Friedman-directed show from New York Theatre Workshop is issue- or problem-free; oddly, it has sprouted unwelcome oddities in its upsizing. But it’s mainly still just as terrific it was in its luminous downtown incarnation. Even its newly spawned dents can’t shatter the whole, because the performances—not just the leads, the whole company—zing throughout. The lyrics and music are Sondheim at his most waspish and wise; days later, the songs are still buzzing in my mind, insisting on being hummed.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: All told, it’s a hit, to borrow a title phrase from one of Sondheim most artful “concerted” numbers; a palpable hit, to borrow a phrase the Master borrowed from the Bard. Forget about the troubled history of Sondheim and Hal Prince’s most ignominious miscue; here and now, Merrily is a five-star hit, and no doubt about it. The show plays like wildfire, ignited from that first blast of overture from that band. It’s a win-win, or perhaps a win-win-win-win. A win for Merrily, yes; a win for Radcliffe, Mendez, and Goff; and a win mostly for Maria Friedman, who created this production with significant success back in 2012 and—in three or four steps along the way—has continued to add layers of sheen so that it no longer plays like an excellent production of a troubled musical but an excellent show all around. It’s a win for Furth, too, who is often overlooked for his script to Merrily (and Company as well) but whose contributions the composer always insistently cited.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: Radcliffe’s “Franklin Shepard, Inc.” is an absolute marvel (don’t be surprised to see a standing ovation after that high-speed train of a song), and his unassuming delivery of “Good Thing Going” is a surprise emotional bombshell. Post–Harry Potter, Radcliffe has racked up an impressive list of stage credits ranging from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying to The Cripple of Inishmaan, and he impresses more in each appearance. And as the pal that holds the trio together, Mendez’s performance is a delicious cocktail of cynicism and hopefulness. What’s most impressive: When they sing the anthem “Old Friends,” they actually look like old friends.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Kobi Kassal, Theatrely: Further, it's hard to go wrong when you have Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff, and Lindsay Mendez above the title. The heart of the show lies with this trio whose genuine connection and truth shines out across the Hudson stage eight times a week. Groff, who has the charisma down pat, dazzles as Frank. When paired with Radcliffe’s Charley, filled with loveable charm, and Mendez’s Mary who is utterly gut-wrenching to watch as her true love slips away, this trio equals Broadway perfection.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Michael Musto, The Village Voice: But Act Two has some unmitigated joy too, particularly “It’s a Hit,” an ecstatic ditty the three leads sing with Joe when they realize the new show Shepard and Kringas have written, Musical Husbands, is scoring and their lives have been irrevocably changed (“No more writing clever little shows for those basement saloons,” sings Shepard. “No more proclamations from the pros that ‘You can’t hum the tunes’”). Well, more than four decades after it premiered to quizzical expressions, Merrily We Roll Along is a hit. Kudos to Friedman and company for going back in time to see what went wrong.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Sara Holdren, Vulture: The enlivening pulse created by Radcliffe, Mendez, and Groff gains strength and drive through the production’s rock-solid ensemble. Gilmour (also the costume designer) dresses them in softly period, unified swaths of color as the play moves back in time — blues, then beiges, then, in the lavish, La Dolce Vita–ish early ‘60s, in hard black and white. There’s something smart happening here: Groff, as Frank, wears varyingly sophisticated versions of the same white shirt and black trousers throughout the show, but at the top of Act Two, as Gussie (not yet his wife) seductively introduces him to “The Blob” — a pulsating swarm of influentials, “the ones who know everyone that everyone knows” — Frank’s clothes match the company’s for the first time. He is, whether consciously or not, getting sucked into something. No — it already has him.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Patrick Ryan, USA Today: But “Merrily” is the most top-to-bottom perfect production of them all, from its muscular orchestrations to its vibrant ensemble to its sneakily devastating book by the late George Furth. Part of what makes the show so overwhelmingly emotional is that it transports us back to a more idealistic age: when possibilities seemed endless, friends were forever, and hopes weren’t yet dashed by life’s realities.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Theatre Guide: Radcliffe really pops now, and Charley’s comedic cri de coeur “Franklin Shepard, Inc.” a showstopper. Actually, it’s a moment to close your eyes tight and swallow.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? David Gordon, WhatsOnStage: Friedman’s production is a theatrical miracle, finding the heart at the center of this story of dreams, regrets, and good things going, going, gone. Somewhere, its creators are bursting with pride to see their vision fully realised, at long last.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post: If you’ve ever seen the fantastic Groff in concert, you know he’s a singer who loves to make eye contact with audience members. That quality — his desire for personal connection — is what makes him such a strong, layered, sympathetic Frank. And his hopeful glance is what sells an unobtrusive but vital new ending. Friedman adds a fleeting epilogue featuring Frank back in 1980, alone and staring out at the sky. His life has just played out inside his head, since we’ve never really left the midcentury-modern California house designed by Soutra Gilmour. And he looks at us as though he’s come to an important realization.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Will Pavia, The Times: Halfway through the first act of this Broadway revival of Merrily We Roll Along, Daniel Radcliffe sits on the set of a television talk show and launches into a frenetic performance of the song Franklin Shepard, Inc. He sings, he shouts, he swivels and writhes in his chair, he imitates a telephone and the buzz of an intercom and the patter of Hollywood agents. He talks like a machinegun, he makes you laugh, he belts out a jazzy chorus, he fills the stage and he never leaves his chair. It’s the greatest thing in the show.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: Merrily We Roll Along is the femme fatale of Stephen Sondheim musicals, beautiful and troubled; people keep thinking they can fix it, rescue it, save it from itself and make it their own. In the decades since its disastrous 1981 premiere on Broadway, where it lasted just two weeks, the show has been revised and revived many times (including by the York in 1994, Encores! in 2012 and Fiasco in 2019). The challenges of Merrily are built into its core in a way that no production can fully overcome. But director Maria Friedman’s revival does a superb job—the best I’ve ever seen—of overlooking them, the way one might forgive the foibles of an old friend.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think? Caroline Cao, Slash Film: As they become younger, Frank, Charley, and Mary de-age into starry-eyed dreamers who swear to keep their flames lit forever. But roads bend and dreams will shapeshift over the years due to realities and unheeded follies. A good production of 'Merrily We Roll Along' ensures that the stargazing 'Our Time' finale packs that wallop. Embracing its newly acquired Broadway scope, the musical concludes with stars blazing upon the ceiling of the Hudson Theatre. Only by reflecting upon the old times can Frank see those stars again.

Review Roundup: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Revival Officially Opens; What Did the Critics Think?
Average Rating: 88.8%


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