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MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG to be the Final Show in Villanova Theatre's 2019-2020 Season

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG to be the Final Show in Villanova Theatre's 2019-2020 Season

Villanova Theatre will present Merrily We Roll Along, the last show of the 2019-2020 Season, directed by Valerie Joyce, running March 17-29. This production will also serve as the last production in Vasey Theatre (home to Villanova Theatre for nearly sixty years) before moving to the brand-new Center for Performing Arts on the opposite side of Lancaster Avenue for the 2020-2021 Season.

Sondheim and Furth's witty and wistful fable about friendship, compromise and the price of success follows three idealistic artists whose lives pull them in unexpected directions. Featuring beloved songs like "Not a Day Goes By," "Good Thing Going" and "Our Time," this groundbreaking musical starts at the end and ends at the beginning, following the aspirations, trials and tribulations of this starry-eyed trio. As our last mainstage production in Vasey Theatre, Merrily We Roll Along invites audiences to look back on over five decades of fond memories while also dreaming ahead to the many marvels yet to come.

At the helm of this production is director Valerie Joyce, who also serves as Theatre Department Chairperson. As an alumna of Villanova's MA in Theatre program, it is fitting that she serves as director of the final show in Vasey Theatre, having also worked as a performer and costume designer on its stage for many years. Dr. Joyce holds Vasey Theatre dear to her heart, saying, "We thought for a long time about a fitting way to say goodbye to Vasey Theatre. Merrily fits the bill in many ways, as a challenging Sondheim score and a perfect vehicle for the actors in our program. But, the story also resonates for those of us who went through the MA program and worked on this stage for over forty years. As we follow the three friends back in time to their starry-eyed youth with big dreams of the future, I am reminded of the people I've encountered in Vasey who have taught me, shaped our productions, and brought joy to so many audiences. I'm grateful for the opportunity to bring one more show to Vasey's stage and for this story's beautiful tribute to friendship and the art of making art."

Alongside Dr. Joyce is music director Peter Hilliard, who has eagerly awaited the opportunity to take on what many consider to be Sondheim's most intricate and beloved score. Hilliard will both guide the vocalists and lead the on-stage orchestra, which comprises a dynamic, jazz-inspired ensemble.

Production Dramaturg and second-year graduate student Melissa Sturges has been exploring the ways in which Sondheim and Furth contextualize the play throughout the Kennedy Era, the Cold War and mid-20th Century America while still maintaining a greater thematic sense of friendship and human connection. At the first rehearsal with the cast and crew, Sturges encouraged the group to reflect upon the most significant moments in their lives, focusing on who stood beside them, and if or when world politics ever influenced their lives' most powerful memories. Sturges says, "It's vital to understand that the three friends experience life during such tumultuous times in history, but what remains the most important parts of the play aren't influenced by politics or war, but the relationships and friendships built between the characters and their dedication to creating art."

Colin McIlvain's scenic design honors Vasey's unique seating configuration while providing an open playing space in which audiences and actors alike can witness the passage of time and its effect on friendships. Throughout the course of the play, rolling elements will combine and reconfigure to move the action from glittering Hollywood parties to cramped New York walk-ups to anxious Broadway backstages, as the play and production lead us from the distractions of an opulent lifestyle back to the open, elemental simplicity of human connection.

Costume designer Janus Stefanowicz has created a cohesive costume design that spans the years 1957 through 1976, featuring many iconic silhouettes and vintage garments. With the social and sexual revolution of the 1960s, fashion changed rapidly, giving Stefanowicz the task of researching and reviving costumes that evoke fashions ranging from the more conservative 1950s to the mod 1960s and beyond. In addition to the evolving fashions and trends, as the years progress, Stefanowicz will create the illusion of having some of the actors' bodies and hairstyles change, while still maintaining a sense of their characters' core personalities.

Props master Sharri Jerue has collected and created vintage props complete with retro cameras, typewriters and recording devices. Resident sound designer John Stovicek will also design photographic projections to help provide historical context for where and when scenes take place. Resident lighting designer Jerold Forsyth will color the world of the play and provide starry skies for his most ambitious design of the season.

The three friends who dream, connect, and find themselves estranged over the years - Frank, Charley and Mary - are played by second-year graduate students Jay V. Kimberley, Ethan Mitchell and Angela Rose Longo, respectively. Additional graduate students rounding out the dynamic cast include, Jerald Bennett as Joe, Cristy Chory as Gussie, Alexandra Mitchell as Beth, and Amy Abrigo, David Burgess, Harry Dietrich, Tina Lynch, Lora Margerum, Rachel McFatridge, Sharese Salters, Kirsten Sughrue and Kale Thompson in the heavily featured ensemble. The production will also feature nine-year-old Charlie Carroccio as Franklin Shepard, Jr.

Merrily We Roll Along runs at Villanova Theatre in Vasey Hall from March 17-29, 2020. Speaker's Night, immediately following the performance on Thursday, March 26, will feature a Q&A session with Villanova's President and former chair of Villanova's Theatre Department, Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD. (see full biographical information below).

Vasey Hall is located on Villanova's main campus at the intersection of Lancaster & Ithan Avenues. Performances will be held Tuesdays - Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets run $21-$25, with discounts available for seniors, students, MA in Theatre alumni and groups. Tickets may be purchased at the Villanova Theatre Box Office (M-S, 12-5 pm) in person, by phone: (610) 519-7474, or online at www.villanovatheatre.org.


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