MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG to be Presented at the Annex Theatre This Winter

Directed by Joshua Kilimnik and choreographed by Shannon Murtagh, the production runs from February 22nd to March 2nd at the Annex Theatre.

By: Nov. 27, 2023
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MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG to be Presented at the Annex Theatre This Winter

Shifting Ground Collective, the wunderkinds behind last summer's smash hit Ordinary Days, return with an ambitious second full-scale production - Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Merrily We Roll Along. The production will be performed entirely by a company of young artists, something that has not been attempted by any major production since its original 1981 run.

Playing at the Annex Theatre from February 22nd-March 2nd, the production stars Duncan Lang (The Calling), Jameson Mosher (An Incomplete List...), and Shifting Ground Co-Producer Colette Richardson (Ordinary Days), with Sydney Gauvin (The SpongeBob Musical), Evan Sokolowski (Elephant and Piggie are in a Play), and Azaria Shams. The ensemble includes Dallis Brinkman, Randy Chang, Oliver Daniel, Mona Hillis, Ian Kowalski, Jada Rifkin, Jessica Rosales and Max Goodman as Frank Jr.

Shifting Ground Co-Producers Joshua רועי Kilimnik and Shannon Murtagh will direct and choreograph respectively, with music direction by Ethan Rotenberg (Sweeney Todd).

The story, told in reverse-chronological order, follows three artists over the course of twenty years of friendship and how their relationships with each other and their own aspirations grow, change, and ultimately disintegrate. The infamy of Merrily We Roll Along as one of Stephen Sondheim's greatest flops is often attributed to its original production, which featured a company made up entirely of young actors between the ages of 16 and 25. Critics slammed the production, claiming its young cast was too naive to understand the cynicism of the story. The common perception of the musical is one of the jaded bitterness and tragedy of aging. Shifting Ground disagrees.

"For us, Merrily has always been about how all of the dreams you held and fought for never really die," Murtagh remarks. "I mean, the lyrics say it all: 'Dreams don't die, so keep an eye on your dream'. That hope is never really gone. Even when the world tries to crush you, you can always go back to it."

"There's something different about looking at this story when you're twenty than when you're forty". Richardson adds. "We just don't see the downfall of these characters as inevitable - and watching young twenty-year-olds becoming those characters, it's kind of hard to see it that way too. Possibility is always hanging in the air".

"It really changes the way you experience the story," Kilimnik adds. "The narrative shifts from a tragic tale of the inevitable loss of dreams to a cautionary tale about what happens when you give up on them. By the end, you're looking at these twenty-year-olds who still have their entire lives ahead of them. And if you think about it, so do the forty year olds at the beginning of the story. Just because you're not eighteen doesn't mean you've completely run out of time".

"Maybe we just see it this way because we're young and naive and haven't been beaten in by the world yet," Murtagh laughs, "but I feel like we all believe we live in a world where it's never too late to go back to your dreams. That anyone can remember the thing that inspired them to chase after those dreams in the first place, and find their way back to it."

"That's the world we want to show audiences with this production," says Kilimnik.

Merrily We Roll Along is onstage February 22nd-March 2nd (Opening Night February 24th) at the Annex Theatre (730 Bathurst Street) with performances Thursday-Tuesday at 7:00pm and select weekend matinees at 1:00pm. Tickets start at $20. For more information and tickets visit shiftinggroundcollective.com.

ABOUT MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by George Furth

Directed by Joshua רועי Kilimnik

Assistant Directed and Choreographed by Shannon Murtagh

Music Direction by Ethan Rotenberg

Set and Props Design by Sarah Yuen

Lighting Design by Jadyn Buchanan

Costume Design by Pasha Bardell

Starring Duncan Lang, Jameson Mosher, Colette Richardson, Sydney Gauvin, Evan Sokolowski and Azaria Shams.

With Randy Chang, Oliver Daniel, Mona Hillis, Ian Kowalski, Jada Rifkin, Jessica Rosales, Dallis Brinkman, and Max Goodman.

ABOUT SHIFTING GROUND COLLECTIVE

Shifting Ground Collective was founded in the Spring of 2022 with a mission to nurture a diverse and sustainable Canadian Musical Theatre culture by investing in new Canadian musical theatre content; offering equitable, high-quality presentation and development opportunities for emerging Canadian artists; and bringing beloved staples of the musical theatre canon to Canadian audiences.

Focusing on artists at the onset of their professional careers, Shifting Ground has invested in developing works by up-and-coming composer playwrights Shreya Jha (Statistics) and Ben Page and Jenny Waxman (Leaving Eden). Their most recent production Ordinary Days was given 3.5/4 stars by the Toronto Star, and was considered one of the smash hit shows of the summer.

Shifting Ground is grateful to have received support from the Canada Council for the Arts, as well as from community partners including The Stratford Festival, The Niagara Parks Commission and Long and McQuade Bloor Street.




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