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Damian Humbley, Jenna Russell and More to Lead Menier Chocolate Factory's MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG


Following its past sold-out Christmas musicals (Sunday in the Park with George, Little Shop of Horrors, La Cage aux Folles, A Little Night Music, Sweet Charity and Pippin), Menier Chocolate Factory announces the casting for its hugely anticipated revival of the Sondheim / Furth musical Merrily We Roll Along as its Christmas 2012 show.

With the directorial debut by triple Olivier award-winning actress Maria Friedman, the production’s cast includes Damian Humbley, Jenna Russell, Mark Umbers, Josefina Gabrielle, Clare Foster, Glyn Kerslake and Zizi Strallen.

Merrily We Roll Along is based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, and scrolls back through the career of talented composer Franklin Shepard, who has abandoned his friends, family and Broadway songwriting career to become a producer of lucrative Hollywood films. As key moments of his life are replayed, decisions, choices, priorities and the price of success are equally reevaluated. This powerful and moving story features some of Sondheim’s most beautiful songs including ‘Good Thing Going’, ‘Not a Day Goes By’ and ‘Old Friends’

Mark Umbers plays Franklin Shepard. He was last seen at the Menier in Sweet Charity as Oscar / Vittorio and was most recently in the West End in The Browning Version (Chichester Festival/Harold Pinter Theatre). He appeared at The National Theatre in My Fair Lady (and Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), Candide and The Merchant of Venice. Film and television work has seen him playing opposite Richard E. Grant in the BBC’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, Scarlett Johansson in A Good Woman, John Malkovich in Colour Me Kubrick and Lauren Bacall and Anjelica Huston in These Foolish Things.

Damian Humbley plays Charley Kringas. He was last seen at the Menier Chocolate Factory in The Last Five Years. He also played Seymour in the UK tour of the Chocolate Factory’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. His recent theatre credits include Company (Crucible, Sheffield) and Lend Me a Tenor - the Musical at the Gielgud Theatre.

They are joined by Jenna Russell playing Mary Flynn. Jenna played Dot in the 2007 Menier Chocolate Factory transfer of Sunday in the Park with George to the West End and Broadway, for which she won the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical and was nominated for a Tony Award for Leading Actress in a Musical. Her extensive theatre credits include Soho Cinders (Soho Theatre), Season’s Greetings (National Theatre), Guys and Dolls (Piccadilly; Olivier Award nomination), RSC productions of As You Like It, Anthony and Cleopatra and The Winter’s Tale; and as Natasha in Max Stafford Clark’s The Three Sisters for the Royal Court.

Clare Foster (Beth Spencer) is appearing at the Leicester Curve in the new musical Finding Neverland and was most recently seen playing Polly in the West End in the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre production of Crazy for You.

Josefina Gabrielle returns to the Chocolate Factory, after her Olivier nominated performance in Sweet Charity, to play Gussie Carnegie. Her musical theatre credits include Hello Dolly (Regent’s Park), Me and My Girl (Crucible, Sheffield), UK tours of The King and I, Oklahoma, Fame and A Chorus Line; and Trevor Nunn’s production of Oklahoma! (National Theatre and Broadway; Olivier Award nomination).

Glyn Kerslake (Joe Josephson) was last seen at the Menier as Father in Road Show. Other stage credits include Miss Saigon (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera (Her Majesty’s), Enjolras in Les Misérables (Palace) and John Wilkes Booth in Assassins (Union Theatre), for which he was nominated for Best Actor at the Off West End Awards.

Zizi Strallen (Meg) can be seen in Rock of Ages at the Shaftesbury Theatre before she joins the Merrily We Roll Along cast, which also includes Matthew Barrow, Martin Callaghan, Amanda Minihan, Amy Ellen Richardson and Robbie Scotcher

Director Maria Friedman returns to the Chocolate Factory following appearances in Maria Friedman: Re-arranged (which transferred to Trafalgar Studios; Olivier Award nomination for Best Entertainment) and The Invisible Man. Her extensive credits include playing Marian in the West End and Broadway productions of The Woman in White (Olivier Award nomination/Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut), Fosca in Sondheim’s Passion and Mother in Ragtime (both netting her Olivier Awards for Best Actress in a Musical). For Maria Friedman, by Special Arrangement (Donmar and Whitehall), she was awarded an Olivier for Best Entertainment and was also nominated for an Olivier for Sunday in the Park with George and Lady in the Dark, both at The National Theatre.

Design is by Soutra Gilmour, whose work includes the Menier’s recent production of Torch Song Trilogy, Cyrano de Bergerac (currently on Broadway; Roundabout), The Duchess of Malfi, (Old Vic), Inadmissible Evidence (Donmar), The Shadow of a Boy (National Theatre), In a Forest Dark and Deep (Vaudeville) and Lovers and War for Strindberg’s Intima Theatre in Stockholm.

Lighting designer David Hersey was Lighting Consultant for The National Theatre for ten years. He has also received Tony Awards for Best Lighting Design for Evita, Cats and Les Misérables and Oliviers for Burning Blue, The Glass Menagerie and Twelfth Night. He was lighting designer for the original Broadway production of Merrily We Roll Along.

Sound designer Gareth Owen has been nominated for the Tony for End of the Rainbow and the Menier’s A Little Night Music and the Olivier for End of the Rainbow. He currently has fifteen shows running around the world, including Disney’s Little Mermaid, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Musical supervision and direction is by Catherine Jayes who was musical supervisor and director for the Menier’s production of Road Show. She is an associate director of Cheek by Jowl and has worked as musical supervisor/director for many Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre productions, including The Boyfriend, Kiss Me Kate, High Society and Paint Your Wagon.

Choreography is by Tim Jackson, who recently choreographed La Perichole for Garsington Opera. Other credits include Parade (Southwark Playhouse) and Saturday Night (Arts Theatre).

Orchestrations are by long-time Sondheim collaborator Jonathan Tunick, whose credits include the Menier’s production of Road Show, and the original Broadway productions of Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along and Into the Woods. He is one of just 11 people to have won all four major American show business awards: Tony, Oscar, Emmy and Grammy.

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