John Doyle to Stage Actor-Musician Revival of Merrily We Roll Along in Cincinnati
By Adam Hetrick
Tony Award-winning director John Doyle, who staged the Broadway revivals of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd and Company, will take on the composer-lyricist's short-lived musical Merrily We Roll Along at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park in March 2012.
Doyle will again incorporate his directorial signature, the actor-musician conceit, into his staging of Merrily, which famously travels backwards in time to navigate the bumpy history of three friends who start their careers in showbusiness together. He previously staged Merrily in a similar manner at the U.K's Watermill Theatre in 2008.
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 also has a book by Furth, is based on Kaufman and Hart's 1934 Broadway play. Merrily We Roll Along will run March 3-31, 2012, in the Robert S. Marx Theatre. An official opening has been set for March 8, 2012. Tickets will go on sale Aug. 15.
Mary-Mitchell Campbell, who orchestrated and was musical supervisor for Doyle's Company, will also be involved. Tony Award winner Scott Pask (The Coast of Utopia, The Pillowman) will design the set.
Additional casting and creative duties will be announced at a later date.
The Playhouse has not determined if it will use the licensed 1994 version of the musical or if Doyle will return to earlier incarnations of the work for the new staging.
Talk of a Broadway revival of Merrily has been circulating the past few seasons, with the Roundabout Theatre Company possibly producing. London's Menier Chocolate Factory, which has transferred several productions to Broadway in recent years, is also mulling a revival of the work with Maria Friedman at the helm. Doyle's track record with Sondheim, and history with the Playhouse, could indicate a further life for the piece, though no announcements have been made.
Playhouse producing artistic director Ed Stern told Playbill.com in a statement, "Like Company, the focus is doing the show for our Cincinnati audiences. If someone comes to see it and wants to move it to New York, that would be great."
Doyle also staged a new production of Chekhov's Three Sisters, adapted by Tony-nominated playwright Sarah Ruhl, at the Playhouse in 2009. The U.K.-born director last collaborated with Sondheim on the 2008 Off-Broadway production of Road Show, which bowed at the Public Theater. Doyle earned a Tony Award for his direction of the 2005 revival of Sweeney Todd and also directed the Broadway musical A Catered Affair.
Merrily We Roll Along, originally directed on Broadway by Hal Prince, marked the first Prince-Sondheim collaboration after Sweeney Todd in 1979. Like Sweeney (which used an expansive foundry set), it opened cold on Broadway without the luxury of an out-of-town try-out. Prince employed a cast of young, Broadway newcomers. The musical faced structural difficulty throughout previews, but the collaborators worked to clarify the material by the Nov. 16, 1981, opening night. Critics did not take to the musical, and it shuttered Nov. 28 after 16 performances and 52 previews.
Sondheim and Furth later revisited the poignant work for a 1994 Off-Broadway revival at the York Theatre Company. The musical features numerous stand-out songs, including "Good Thing Going," "Not A Day Goes By," "Like It Was," "Old Friends," "Now You Know" and "Our Time."
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