PHOTO EXCLUSIVE: Backstage at John Doyle's Actor-Musician Merrily We Roll Along

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22 Mar 2012

Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Merrily We Roll Along takes on new musical depth in an actor-musician staging by John Doyle.



Performers David Garry and Jane Pfitsch documented the experience for Playbill.com.

"It's a match made in heaven: Stephen Sondheim, John Doyle, and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park," says Pfitsch. "The 13-member cast of Merrily We Roll Along takes you backstage to see how we get ourselves and our 25+ musical instruments through a two-show day. Note the lack of backstage down time - all 13 of us are onstage for the entire show!"



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Jane Pfitsch warms up Leenya Rideout's violin. (Playing Beth and Gussie, they share more than just a husband!)
Photo by David Garry and Jane Pfitsch



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Doyle has set Merrily We Roll Along within a musical world, where manuscripts of the original score fill the space of the Robert S. Marx Theatre. The two-act musical, which Doyle has staged without an intermission, comes in at just under two hours. Previews began March 3 for a run through March 31.

The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park is also where Doyle debuted his actor-musician production of Sondheim and George Furth's Company, which transferred to Broadway in late 2006. The production earned the Tony Award for Best Revival and a nomination for Best Direction. 

The 1981 musical, which has a book by Furth and a score by Sondheim, is based on Kaufman and Hart's 1934 Broadway play. Merrily famously travels backwards in time to navigate the bumpy history of three friends who start their careers in showbusiness together.

The 2012 staging of Merrily marks Tony nominee Malcolm Gets' second pass at the role of songwriter Franklin Shepard – he previously played the role Off-Broadway in the 1994 York Theatre Company staging of Merrily, which introduced revisions by Sondheim and Furth since its 1981 Broadway run. Doyle's production reflects the 1994 York revisions.

Gets (A New Brain, The Story of My Life) also collaborated with Doyle in the American premiere of his Rodgers and Hart actor-musician musical Ten Cents a Dance at the Williamstown Theatre Festival last summer.

Daniel Jenkins, a Tony Award nominee for Big River, portrays  songwriting partner Charley Kringas; with Becky Ann Baker (Good People, Assassins) as Franklin and Charley's disillusioned pal Mary Flynn.

Completing the cast of Merrily are a handful of Doyle musical veterans, including Jane Pfitsch as Beth, Leenya Rideout as Gussie Carnegie, Jessica Wright as K.T., Matt Castle as Scotty, David Garry as Jerome, Bruce Sabath as Joe, Lee Harrington as Meg, Fred Rose as Tyler, Matthew Deming as Ru and Ben Diskant as Frank Jr. 

Mary-Mitchell Campbell, who orchestrated and was musical supervisor for Doyle's Company,  is also involved. Tony Award winner Scott Pask (The Coast of Utopia, The Pillowman) designs the set, with costume design by Ann Hould-Ward, lighting design by Jane Cox and sound design by Dan Moses Schreier. Cast member Matt Castle serves as musical director.

For tickets phone (513) 421-3888 or visit CincyPlay.