Thursday, May 9, 2024

NYC Theater Trip 2024: "Merrily We Roll Along" at the Hudson Theatre

Show*: 1

Title: Merrily We Roll Along

Location: Hudson Theatre

Written By: music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by George Firth

Summary: The story of three artist friends told backwards - from the unhappy ending to the happy beginning.

Highlights: I fell in love with this show when Theater Latte Da did a production a few years ago. Such a gorgeous, complicated, interesting score, and unique backwards storytelling. The 1981 Broadway flop was reworked a few times, and has gained popularity over the years. This first Broadway revival is directed by frequent Sondheim actor and collaborator Maria Friedman, and it's a gem. The trio of leads - Broadway darlings Lindsay Mendez and Jonathan Groff, and Daniel Radcliffe from that little movie franchise - are all incredible as individuals, and simply divine together (and all nominated for a Tony for this show). Their friendship is palpable, which makes the heartbreak at the beginning of the show / end of the story even harder to bear. But they get happier and more light-hearted as the show progresses to the beginning of their friendship, when everything seemed possible. As Frank, Jonathan is his usual charming self, with a jaded edge at the beginning/end that softens throughout the show, and of course a gorgeous voice. Daniel is natural and present as Charlie, with a deliciously fast and frantic "Franklin Shepard, Inc." Last but not least, Lindsay (Tony winner for Carousel a few years ago) conveys the full range of emotions as Mary, from heart-broken and jaded, to youthful and hopeful, singing with a full and rich voice.

This production features an onstage 13-piece orchestra, tucked away in an upper corner of the mod set and at times visible. Frank's chic LA home, all light wood, big windows, and green plants, transforms into his NYC apartment and other locations, until we arrive at the rooftop where the friends meet watching Sputnik soar across the sky, inspiring their dreams. Scene transitions are accompanied by the talented ensemble singing us into the next era, as we flow seamlessly backwards through the years. The costumes also transition, from '70s to '60s, to '50s, although our stars stay mostly in the same clothing, with subtle changes for each era (scenic and costume design by Soutra Gilmour). The show has a lot to say about art, artists, creation, and "selling out," as well as the challenges of enduring friendship.

This production closes on July 7, so get there soon!

*Once again, I'm using an abbreviated Fringe-style summary for my NYC 2024 trip, since I am in the greatest city in the world with much more exciting things to do than write! Click here to see all of my Broadway-related blog posts.