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Review Roundup: Menier Chocolate Factory's MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG - All the Reviews!

By: Nov. 29, 2012
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MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG began performances 16 November 2012 - 23 February 2013.
Stephen Sondheim and George Furth, with triple Olivier award winner Maria Friedman are making her professional directorial debut at the Chocolate Factory.

Playing the lead roles are Damian Humbley (The Last 5 Years; Little Shop of Horrors) as Charley Kringas, Olivier award winner and Tony nominee Jenna Russell (Sunday in the Park with George) as Mary Flynn and Mark Umbers (Sweet Charity) as Franklin Shepard. Olivier nominee Josefina Gabrielle (Sweet Charity) returns to the Menier to play the role of Gussie Carnegie along with Glyn Kerslake (Road Show) who plays Joe Josephson.

Also cast are Clare Foster (Crazy For You) playing Beth Spencer and Zizi Strallen (Rock of Ages) who will play Meg Kincaid. In addition, the cast includes Matthew Barrow, Martin Callaghan, Clare Foster, Josefina Gabrielle, Glyn Kerslake, Samantha Mercer, Noah Miller, Amanda Minihan, Kirk Patterson, Amy Ellen Richardson, Ashley Robinson, Tommy Rodger, Robbie Scotcher, Zizi Strallen, Joseph West, Joanna Woodward

Let's see what the critics had to say:

Mark Shenton of says:  Most heartbreaking of all is Mary, the writer friend whose unrequited love for Frank defines her life, played with spellbinding yearning by Russell. Playing another trio of the women that Frank variously has romantic relationships with instead - his first and second wives Beth and Gussie, and mistress Meg - Clare Foster, Josefina Gabrielle and Zizi Strallen respectively pitch them perfectly. Gabrielle, particularly, is a show-stopping revelation in the effortless but skin-deep sophistication of a Broadway star who has grasped her way to the top from being a producer’s secretary to his wife, and then dumps him for Frank.

Charles Spencer of The Telegraph has this to say:  If ever a show illustrated the truth that musicals aren’t so much written as rewritten it is Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along.... If the musical has a fault it is that it sometimes seems a little too neat and schematic, in a way that Pinter’s Betrayal with its ache of love and remembrance never does. Sondheim doesn’t dig as deep. But as a piece of craftsmanship Merrily We Roll Along dazzles, from the opening acidly depicted Hollywood party, when the characters’ dreams and friendship have curdled, to the poignant hope of their first meeting.

Michael Billington of The Guardian comments:  Now comes a superb production by Maria Friedman, astonishingly making her directorial debut, that makes you wonder how anyone could ever have doubted its quality... What I love about this show is that Sondheim's technical brilliance is harnessed to emotional needs; and that is the point on which Friedman has avidly seized. Instead of fretting about the characters' reverse-ageing, she focuses on the detail of their relationships...

Matt Wolf of says:  The Franklin we see at the start - a beginning, given this show's structure, that is also its ending - is an in-demand Hollywood player with both the industry and all womankind at his feet. Gone missing along the way are his thrusting musical theatre aspirations, his family (he scarcely sees his son), and the bonds of friendship that were forged on the Sputnik-era New York rooftop where the narrative eventually lands, the shimmering buoyancy of the show's closing number, "Our Time", amplified by our awareness of the betrayals, heartache, and more that would afflict these innocents inhabiting that too-brief Elysium before life's abrasions come to call.

Michael Coveney of writes:  This is a lovely directing debut by Maria Friedman, a full-value, beautifully cast, moving and assured production of Stephen Sondheim's and George Furth's poignant 1981 musical (based on a 1934 play by George S Kaufman and Moss Hart) about friendship, collaboration and trading your idealism for the easy material life.

Sam Marlowe of Timeout says: Happily, Maria Friedman - as a performer a much-admired Sondheim interpreter - proves the possessor of a dexterous pair of hands. Her directorial debut is at its best richly detailed, the eroded ideals, desperation and disillusionment of middle age depicted with both brutal honesty and compassion, in gut-wrenching contrast to the heady optimism of youth.

Based on the play by Kaufman and Hart, Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s musical charts the turbulent relationship between three friends, Franklin, Charley and Mary, over three decades. Starting in 1980 and travelling backwards in time, 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’.

Originally directed on Broadway by Harold Prince.  Originally produced on Broadway by Lord GradeMartin StargerRobert Fryer and Harold Prince in association with Ruthie Mitchell and Howard Haines

For tickets and more information, visit:

Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

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