Merrily We Roll Along Opens at the West End's Harold Pinter Theatre May 1
By Mark Shenton
Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's 1981 Broadway flop Merrily We Roll Along is having a full West End outing, opening officially May 1 following previews that began April 23 at the Harold Pinter Theatre, for a 12-week run through July 27.
The production transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory, where it ran from Nov. 16-March 9, 2012. The musical was previously seen at London's Donmar Warehouse in 2000, where it was directed by Michael Grandage.
This production is directed by Maria Friedman, who has regularly appeared in Sondheim musicals in London and once starred as Mary Flynn in a Leiccester production of Merrily We Roll Along herself, and features the same cast as at the Menier, led by Mark Umbers as Franklin Shepard, Damian Humbley as Charley Kringas, and Tony nominee Jenna Russell as Mary Flynn.
All three have appeared in Menier productions before: Umbers was seen in Sweet Charity as Oscar/Vittorio, which subsequently transferred to the West End's Theatre Royal, Haymarket; Humbley starred in the UK premiere of Jason Robert Brown's The Last 5 Years at the Menier; and Russell starred as Dot in the West End and Broadway transfers of the Menier's production of Sunday in the Park with George (though the role was originated at the Menier by Anna-Jane Casey).
Umbers was most recently seen in the West End in The Browning Version (transferred from Chichester's Minerva Theatre). Humbley's other credits include playing Seymour in the UK tour of the Menier's Little Shop of Horrors, Company at Sheffield's Crucible and Lend Me a Tenor - the Musical at the West End's Gielgud Theatre. Russell, who won the Laurence Olivier Award and was Tony-nominated for Sunday in the Park with George, was recently in Soho Cinders at the Soho Theatre.
Also in featured roles are Clare Foster, Josefina Gabrielle, Glyn Kerslake and Zizi Strallen. Foster, who plays Beth Spencer, was last seen in the world premiere of Finding Neverland at the Curve, Leicester and was also in the West End in the transfer of Crazy for You, which she originated at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park. Gabrielle, who plays Gussie Carnegie, previously appeared at the Menier in Sweet Charity, for which she was nominated for an Olivier Award. She played Laurie in Trevor Nunn's production of Oklahoma! at the National opposite Hugh Jackman, subsequently transferring to Broadway with it in which she starred opposite Patrick Wilson. Kerslake, who plays Joe Josephson, was last seen at the Menier as Father in Road Show. Other West End credits include Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. Strallen, who plays Meg, was last seen in the West End in Rock of Ages at the Shaftesbury.
The cast also includes Matthew Barrow, Amanda Minihan, Kirk Patterson, Amy Ellen Richardson, Ashley Robinson, Robbie Scotcher and Joanna Woodward.
Friedman, a regular Sondheim performer whose roles have included playing Dot and Fosca in the UK premieres of Sunday in the Park with George and Passion, respectively, as well as Mrs. Lovett opposite Bryn Terfel in Sweeney Todd at the Royal Festival Hall, makes her directorial debut. She has also previously played Mary Flynn in Merrily We Roll Along at Leicester Haymarket.
The creative team also includes designs by Soutra Gilmour, lighting by David Hersey, sound design by Gareth Owen, musical supervision and direction by Catherine Jayes, orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick and choreography by Tim Jackson.
The production is presented in the West End by Chocolate Factory Productions, Bob Bartner, Just for Laughs Theatricals, Tanya Link, Neal Street Productions and Sonia Friedman Productions.
To book tickets, contact the box office on 0844 871 7622 or visit www.merrilywestend.com for more details.
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