Merrily We Roll Along — following Sunday in the Park with George, Company and Into the Woods — is the latest Stephen Sondheim musical to boast an original cast reunion concert. The Merrily concert, staged by Broadway veteran Kathleen Marshall, will be held Sept. 30.
The benefit concert for Musical Theatre Works will be presented at the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Former "Seinfeld" actor Jason Alexander, who starred as Joe in the original Broadway mounting, will host the evening, which will feature nearly all of the original Broadway cast. Although the principals began rehearsals earlier, the entire cast didn't reunite — for the first time in more than 20 years — until Friday, Sept. 27, just three days prior to the performance. A spokesman for the production said that the Sept. 27 get-together was an emotional experience for all involved.
As of press time, the concert line-up will include Jim Walton (Franklin Shepard), Ann Morrison (Mary Flynn), Lonny Price (Charley Kringas), Terry Finn (Gussie), David Cady (Jerome), Donna Marie Elio Asbury (Terry), Maryrose Wood (Ms. Gordon), Marc Moritz (Alex), Tonya Pinkins (Gwen Wilson), David Loud (Ted), David Shine (Les), Paul Hyams (Mr. Spencer), Daisy Prince (Meg), Mana Allen, James Bonkovsky, Liz Callaway, Forest Dino Ray, Giancarlo Esposito, Steven Jacob, Abby Pogrebin, Clark Sayre, Gary Stevens and Janie Walton Scott. The final missing cast members, Mary Johansen and Tom Shea, were recently found. Shea will be unable to join the reunion because he and his wife are expecting a child that week; however, Johansen will take part in the event. Sally Klein, who had originally planned to take part in the concert, will also be unable to attend. Liz Callaway will play the role of Beth, the part originated by Klein. Longtime Sondheim associate Paul Gemignani will conduct the orchestra.
Kathleen Marshall choreographed the Broadway productions of Follies; Seussical; Kiss Me, Kate (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Astaire Award nominations); Ring Round The Moon; 1776; and Swinging on a Star (Drama Desk nomination). She directed and choreographed Wonderful Town and Babes in Arms for City Center Encores!, where she served as Artistic Director for four seasons and for which she is now director-in-residence. Off Broadway, she directed and choreographed Saturday Night, the New York premiere of Stephen Sondheim's first musical, and choreographed Violet (Playwrights Horizons) and As Thousands Cheer (Drama Dept.). She recently choreographed the London production of Kiss Me, Kate and she is also the choreographer for the upcoming television production of The Music Man starring Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Broderick. Tickets to the event — priced between $50 and $1,000 — are available by calling Musical Theatre Works at (212) 677-0040, ext. 312. LaGuardia High School is located at 100 Amsterdam Avenue in New York City.
Based on the play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, Merrily We Roll Along features a score by Stephen Sondheim and a book by George Furth. Concerning the lives of three friends — composer Franklin Shepard, lyricist Charley Kringas and writer Mary Flynn — the musical is told backwards in time and boasts such classic Sondheim tunes as "Like It Was," "Not a Day Goes By," "Good Thing Going," "Now You Know," "Our Time" and "Old Friends." The musical bowed on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on Nov. 16, 1981, where it ran for only 16 full performances.
Although it may seem obvious to confirm it, the version of the script being presented will be that of the 1981 show (the score heard on the cast album), and not the rewrites that came later. The original is no longer available for licensing. The Kennedy Center, for example, staged the later version of the show that has been seen in regional theatres around the country.
—By Andrew Gans