VINTAGE PLAYBILL: Merrily We Roll Along, 1981
By Megan Dekic
On this date 32 years ago, the original Broadway production of the Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical Merrily We Roll Along closed after 52 previews and 16 performances. The Playbill Vault highlights vintage Playbills from the show's troubled preview period and notoriously short run.
Based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, Merrily We Roll Along opened Nov. 16, 1981, at the Alvin (now Neil Simon) Theatre. Harold Prince directed the production, marking the last Prince-Sondheim collaboration until 2003's Bounce at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.
The opening-night cast featured Ann Morrison, Lonny Price and Jim Walton, who replaced James Weissenbach during previews. A slew of cast members made their Broadway debuts in the musical, including Tony Award winners Jason Alexander and Tonya Pinkins and Tony nominee Liz Callaway.
The show received less than favorable reviews, though critics did praise Sondheim's score. "Mr. Sondheim has given this evening a half-dozen songs that are crushing and beautiful - that soar and linger and hurt," wrote Frank Rich in his New York Times review, "but the show that contains them is a shambles." Harsh reviews prompted the production to close after just 16 performances.
In the years since its Broadway run, Merrily We Roll Along has seen numerous revisions and stagings, including a 2012 New York City Center Encores! concert production starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, Colin Donnell and Celia Keenan-Bolger.
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