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Actors Co-op Shines Brightly with Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along

Merrily We Roll Along
book by George Furth; music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
directed by Richard Israel
Actors Co-op
through October 24

Merrily We Roll Along may just very well be Stephen Sondheim's greatest lesser known musical.
Like Harold Pinter's nonmusical play Betrayal, its action works backwards in time instead of forwards, allowing audiences to pay closer attention to the details that lead to the breakups and failures. It also puts an emphasis on the optimism and positive spirit of youth so missing within the framework of fleeting success. It's lonely at the top could not be a wiser old adage. Now onstage at Actors Co-op, Merrily is vibrantly alive, singing the praises of Sondheim and George Furth. This is a blessed representation with Actors Co-op production values, rich and full.

Richard Israel has assembled a wonderful cast, every single one of them just about perfect for their roles. Heading the ensemble are Brent Schindele as Franklin Shepard, Matt Bauer as Charley Kringas, and Leslie Spencer as Mary Flynn, a triumvirate of friends who avow from the beginning to stay true to each other through thick and thin. They all shine, singing and acting gloriously throughout, not missing a beat - and that's not easy singing Sondheim. Bauer's "Franklin Shepard, Inc" in Act I is unforgettable. Selah Victor is loving and true as Beth and Gina D' Acciaro makes a powerhouse Gussie. Her character is the perfect example of how success may totally ruin an individual personality. Obsessive, greedy and loud, when it all started she was just a shy unassuming little secretary without any moxy or drive. Praise as well to John O'Brien, Michael Covert, Catherine Gray, David Greenman, Dominic Leslie, little Sam Melnikov, Rory Patterson, Ben Ryan, and Stephen Vendette. They all sing and move with gusto under Richard Israel's expert direction and John Todd's snappy choreography.

Stephen Gifford's scenic design with its sliding panels works divinely and Sharon McGunigle's costumes are colorful, especially the ladies' evening wear.

What a terrific production! I could sit through it again and again! Bravo to Actors Co-op!


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