Tyley Ross, celebrated for his title-role performance in The Who's Tommy in Toronto, will play composer Franklin Shepard in the Shaw Festival's summer 2002 staging of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Merrily We Roll Along, May 11-Oct. 26.
Ross has also been seen as Chris in Toronto's Miss Saigon, and as Tony West Side Story at the Stratford Festival. His work in Tommy earned him a Dora Award in Toronto.
The Shaw Festival, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, downstream from Niagara Falls, is devoted to works written during the time of Bernard Shaw or about the time period in which Shaw lived. The Kaufman and Hart source play for the 1981 musical was first seen in 1934. The Shaw Festival is using the revised 1994 script of the cult musical. The show is known for such standout tunes as "Good Thing Going" and "Not a Day Goes By," telling the story (in reverse order, from present to past) of three friends who become famous writers.
Jay Turvey (a Mamma Mia! tour veteran) will play lyricist Charley, Jenny L. Wright (a Shaw vet from musical and dramatic roles) is writer Mary, Glynis Ranney is actress Beth, Patty Jamieson is K.T., Gary Krawford is producer Joe Josephson and Charlotte M. Moore is Gussie.
Shaw Festival artistic director designate Jackie Maxwell stages the musical in the intimate Royal George Theatre, a proscenium jewelbox, with Paul Sportelli music-directing. Valerie Moore choreographs, Judith Bowden designs sets and costumes, Robert Thomson designs lighting. The casts of Shaw musicals are not specialty performers hired for the season, but are usually drawn from the main company, where they double is dramatic and comedic roles in works by Shaw, Coward, J.M. Barrie and others.
For information about the Shaw Festival, call (800) 511-SHAW.
The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, is also reviving Merrily this summer, with Raul Esparza as Charley, as part of its "Sondheim Celebration."
— By Kenneth Jones