Sondheim’s musical Merrily We Roll Along has received the most five-star reviews in West End’s history and is the proud recipient of the Olivier Award for Best Musical.
The show takes audiences back in time 20 years in show business, where they meet close friends Mary, Franklin and Charley. The production features some of Sondheim’s best songs, including “Old Friends,” “Good Thing Going,” and “Not a Day Goes By.”
At the heart of the story is Franklin Shepard, a man who was once a talented composer of Broadway musicals. Shepard abandons his career and his friends to become a Hollywood movie producer. The show starts at the peak of his career, and travels backwards in time to show audiences the most important snapshots of his life; the moments that made him the man he is today.
By the end of the show, we see the three friends as young teenagers ready to take on the world.
Audiences also go through the lives and milestones of Franklin’s friends Charley and Mary.
While the original show was a flop on Broadway in 1981, the production has been revived several times over the years. The 1992 production in Leicester, England was a success, but 20 years later, a member of the 1992 cast revived the play once again. It was a roaring success while it ran on the West End.
Maria Friedman, director of this successful revival, is now bringing the show to Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company, with plans for shows in New York and other cities.
Friedman’s iteration of the play made it to West End by accident. The production began as a learning exercise, but when theater people showed up in the audience, things quickly changed. Friedman was given the opportunity to direct the show at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory. It then transferred to West End, and would go on to win the Olivier Award for best musical. Daniel Evans and Samantha Spiro also won Olivier Awards for Best Actor in a Musical and Best Actress in a Musical respectively.
In 2014, the show received the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival, and Maria Friedman won Best Director.
Sondheim himself said the production is the best he’d ever seen.
Friedman’s key decision to cast older characters and focus on relationships – rather than aging – are key reasons why the show has been such a success.
The production runs for 2.5 hours, with a 15-minute intermission.