The overdue composer Stephen Sondheim’s greatest occupation flop has became out to be one of the vital absolute best musicals of the theater season — a trifling 41 years after it first premiered.
Downtown at New York Theatre Workshop, the cute and intimate revival of his “Merrily We Roll Alongside” that opened Monday evening lifts its target audience’s spirits even all over a display that, as written, is a bitter cautionary story about how lifestyles sucks extra as you age.
Two hours and 40 mins, with one intermission. At New York Theatre Workshop, 79 East 4th Side road.
It’s the other of lots of the schlock that’s squatting on Broadway nowadays. This musical is clever, hilarious, human, heartfelt and alive. It makes you — gasp — suppose. And it has the electrical energy of a big tournament, as we’re gripped and gutted via its major characters’ existences short-circuiting prior to us.
Merrily? Yeah, proper. The unhappy display depicts a friendship disintegrating backwards — portrayed via Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez — “Souvenir” taste. Typically, you stroll out on the finish depressed and introspective and whispering concerning the piece’s structural flaws.
Fanatics have grown to cherish the ranking with stunning songs corresponding to “No longer a Day Is going By means of” “Excellent Factor Going” and “Previous Pals,” however as Sondheim’s track awkwardly pairs with George Furth’s unfashionable and oddly phrased ebook, productions normally cross off the rails.
However I felt another way on the finish of this “Merrily,” with no-frills path via Maria Friedman and a midcentury trendy set via Soutra Gilmour.
When Groff, who’s sensational taking part in a well-known composer named Franklin Shepard, stares out on the target audience on this staging’s ultimate symbol, he’s again once more in heart age together with his lifestyles in tatters. At that second, you in reality imagine that he’s modified and that those 3 previously inseparable New York buddies could make it paintings; that our enjoy observing the display has been Frank’s personal all-important lightbulb second. An infamously unfulfilling display abruptly satisfies.
Nevertheless it’s now not just a hanging symbol that is helping “Merrily” roll alongside, however a stunner of a trio. The outdated pals are fabulously performed via Groff, Radcliffe and Mendez, who by no means overplay a millisecond of a tale that may simply get stuck up in showbiz cliches and Seventies kitsch. Right here, the whole lot is grounded and actual.
“Merrily” begins at a birthday celebration in Franklin’s Los Angeles house within the Seventies, attended via his spouse, mistress and his outdated friend Mary (Mendez) along the standard Hollywood clingers. Mary is a theater critic and a raging alcoholic (thank you, guys) who reasons a scene via loudly guilting Frank about his estrangement from their friend and his lyricist Charley (Radcliffe).
After which we rewind to the Nineteen Sixties. Charley blows up at Frank all over a countrywide TV interview, and Radcliffe sings the man-about-to-snap patter track “Franklin Shepard Inc.,” accusing his inventive spouse of marketing out for cash. The British actor provides one in every of his warmest and maximum truthful performances but, and delves into deeper puts than “How To Achieve Trade With out Actually Attempting” and “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” allowed him to. The man breaks your center. By means of the way in which, Radcliffe has changed into this kind of reliably terrific degree actor, we don’t want to deliver up his wand-wielding previous anymore.
All through all of the turmoil of damaged marriages and spats, Mary, who goals of turning into a novelist, is the workhorse who tries to stay their circle of relatives unit in combination. Mendez is beautiful within the section from the offset. A much less professional actress warps older, alcoholic Mary right into a crone a la the Witch from “Into the Woods.” Mendez is completely authentic and, because of this, devastating.
The similar is right of Katie Rose Clarke as Beth, Frank’s first spouse, who wails “No longer a Day Is going By means of” as her husband’s skyrocketing repute leads him to stray from their marriage. As his new spouse, Gussie, Krystal Pleasure Brown is sinuous and a grasp manipulator. And prefer he used to be in “Tootsie,” Reg Rogers, because the Broadway manufacturer Joe, is an ideal encapsulation of casting-couch smarm.
The second one act of the display is at all times much less compelling than the primary for the reason that triad’s younger occupation milestones — their first Broadway hit, an early downtown revue, operating terrible day jobs — have much less oomph than the connection dramas. What makes the ones staccato occasions be triumphant this is that those 3 actors, all being of their thirties, successfully straddle their characters’ states of being originally and finish. Once they get their first gig, there’s a palpable lived-in euphoria they emanate that can make each and every ticket-buyer have in mind their very own.
Has “Merrily” in any case been fastened? No longer in reality, and it by no means will probably be. However its storied issues have now not best change into a part of its lore, but in addition a messy asset in our dismal generation of mechanical, assembly-line musicals produced via film studios. “Merrily” is an affecting oddball that hits you onerous emotionally, even if it creatively misses. Right here’s to it. What’s love it? Rattling few.
Supply By means of https://nypost.com/2022/12/12/merrily-we-roll-along-review-a-lovable-and-intimate-revival/