MerryGoRound, the Sherman Brothers' Musical, Still Hoping to Spin on Broadway
By Kenneth Jones
Money continues to be raised for the long-gestating, Broadway-aimed musical MerryGoRound, with songs by the Academy Award-winning team of Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, lead producer Jack Stein told Playbill.com on June 7. A new Broadway target of spring 2013 is being eyed for the $13 million show, $9 million of which has been raised, Stein said.
If and when MerryGoRound finally spins, it would be the fourth Broadway show by the sibling tunesmiths, following Over Here!, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the current Mary Poppins. Playbill last reported about MerryGoRound in September 2010, when a Broadway bow of spring 2011 was announced.
Florence Henderson ("The Brady Bunch," Broadway's Fanny) and Conrad John Schuck (Annie, "Macmillan and Wife") were mentioned for the cast at the time; Stein said in an email that "both Florence and John are still attached, but there are no new cast additions" to be announced for what will be a company of "about 24" performers.
A workshop was presented in Los Angeles. The producers are aiming to go directly to New York City without the benefit of a regional tryout. No specific Broadway theatre or dates were announced. Most in the creative team would be making their Broadway debuts with the show. Andy Belling is the conceiver-director.
MerryGoRound, with a book by Paul Butler and Fred Fox, Jr., "is a musical that takes place in the moment between life and death," according to notes provided by the producer. "It's the story of a young man who, believing his existence is meaningless, attempts to end his life. He is saved by his estranged father who persuades him to travel back in his memories via a magic lantern to discover the truth behind various events in his past, to convince him to change his mind and 'stay on board' the merry-go-round of life."
The Sherman brothers won two Academy Awards and three Grammy Awards. They share nine Oscar nominations. Their most famous songs include "Chim-Chim Cher-ee," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "Hushabye Mountain," "A Spoonful of Sugar," "Feed the Birds" and "It's a Small World."
MerryGoRound is one of the last of the Sherman Brothers' musical scores. Robert Sherman died in March 2012. At the time of his death, the brothers' long-aborning Busker Alley was also looking for a commercial life, and there had been talk of a Broadway revival of their Tony Award-nominated 1974 big-band musical, Over Here!
MerryGoRound will feature "unprecedented state-of-the-art video wall technology that integrates three-dimensional animated performances and scenery with the live actors on stage." Redesign, Inc. (Peter Morse and Perry "Butch" Allen), lighting and set designers with concert credits, will handle design elements (with "live performers interacting with 3-D CGI animation"). Also expect "a stunning series of never-before-seen illusions" created by John Gaughan, who has conjured stage magic on Broadway (Beauty and the Beast, Merlin).
MerryGoRound is not a Disney production, though the Shermans are most closely associated with Disney properties, including the films "Mary Poppins," "The Happiest Millionaire," "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," "The Jungle Book" and "Winnie the Pooh" (among others) and theme parks ("It's a Small World").
Bob Mackie, designer to the stars for decades, is the costume designer. The show will be produced under Stein's JNS Entertainment banner, with Manny Kladitis (Niko Companies, LTD) serving as general manager.
Stein is a former William Morris agent, personal manager, concert promoter and TV producer. Writer Fox, Jr., was a producer and writer of the hit television series "Laverne & Shirley," "Happy Days" and "Family Matters." He also won an International Emmy for his show, "My Secret Identity," which he co-created and executive-produced. Director Belling is a composer-director whose music has been heard on television and motion pictures. He is best known for his score for Ralph Bakshi's cult classic, "Wizards," for 20th Century Fox. As a director, Belling staged Wayland Flowers' Madam Goes To Harlem at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas and Babes in Arms at Burt Reynolds' theatre in Jupiter, FL.
Reports of the creation of MerryGoRound first surfaced in 2005.
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