The recording, like the Feb. 8-19 concert run, features completely new orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick. This new recording is the only album to include all the changes that Sondheim and librettist Furth made in the decades following Merrily's initial 1981 Broadway run. It's also the first time that the post-1981 material is fully orchestrated for a large Broadway-style orchestra (Tunick did the original orchestrations, too).
For the Encores! production, PS Classics noted, Tunick not only scored the new material (which includes "That Frank," "Growing Up," "Musical Husbands" and "The Blob"), but "newly scored the entire work, including all of the original, surviving songs" and overture.
The City Center Encores! production of Merrily We Roll Along was headed by Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) as lyricist Charley Kringas, Colin Donnell (Anything Goes) as songwriter Franklin Shepard, Celia Keenan-Bolger (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) as magazine writer Mary Flynn, Betsy Wolfe (Tales of the City, Everyday Rapture) as Franklin's wife Beth, Elizabeth Stanley (Million Dollar Quartet) as Gussie Carnegie (the star of Franklin and Charley's first Broadway hit), Adam Grupper as producer Joe Josephson and Zachary Unger as Frank Jr.DISC ONE
2. Merrily We Roll Along
3. That Frank
4. First Transition
5. Like It Was
6. Franklin Shepard, Inc.
7. Second Transition
8. Old Friends
9. Growing Up
10. Third Transition
11. Not a Day Goes By
12. Now You Know
2. Gussie's Opening Number
3. It's a Hit!
4. Fourth Transition
5. The Blob Part I / Growing Up (Reprise)
6. Good Thing Going
7. The Blob Part II
8. Fifth Transition
9. Bobby and Jackie and Jack
10. Not a Day Goes By (Reprise)
11. Sixth Transition
12. Opening Doors
13. Seventh Transition
14. Our Time
The album is produced by PS Classics co-founder Tommy Krasker, with label co-founder Philip Chaffin and Sean Patrick Flahaven serving as executive producers.
Krasker previously told Playbill.com, "I confess I had not seen a production of Merrily since the original, and I was unprepared for how it had been so completely and brilliantly transformed. And then you hear these stunning orchestrations by Jonathan. It felt to us like the culmination of more than 30 years of work by Sondheim and Furth and Lapine and Tunick; how do you not preserve something like that on disc?"
The Merrily company also featured Whit Baldwin, Rachel Coloff, Ben Crawford, Joshua Dela Cruz, Bernard Dotson, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Marja Harmon, Leah Horowitz, Mylinda Hull, Michael X. Martin, Sean McKnight, Kenita R. Miller, Patricia Noonan, Andrew Samonsky, Pearl Sun, Charlie Sutton, Jessica Vosk, Karl Warden and Michael Winther.
James Lapine, who directed a revised version of the 1981 Broadway musical in California in 1985, directed this concert version at New York City Center. The Encores! production is "based on Furth and Sondheim's rewrite of the show for La Jolla Playhouse in 1985, with elements of the 1990 Leicester, England production and a subsequent York Theatre Company production in 1994 incorporated."
Music direction was by Rob Berman. Musical staging was by Dan Knechtges (Xanadu, …Spelling Bee and Lysistrata Jones). Orchestrations are by Tunick, who also did orchestrations in 1981.
Here's how Encores! billed the show: "With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth, Merrily We Roll Along is a musical about friendship and the compromise of youthful ideals, based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The show moves backwards in time from 1980 to 1955 and examines the lives of three people whose friendship is tested by time, events, ambition and fate. It charts the rise of a songwriting team during the years of Sondheim’s own early career and includes some of his most brilliant and bruising songs, such as 'Not a Day Goes By,' 'Old Friends,' 'Our Time' and 'Opening Doors.' Although unsuccessful in its original 1981 Broadway production (which ran 16 performances at the Alvin Theatre), Merrily has gained in stature and reputation over the ensuing years, beginning with a reconfigured version at the La Jolla Playhouse in California in 1985, directed by James Lapine."