"It Started Out Like a Song": Lonny Price Recalls Iconic Merrily Moment

News   "It Started Out Like a Song": Lonny Price Recalls Iconic Merrily Moment
The year was 1981. A 21-year-old actor named Lonny Price was cast as playwright-lyricist Charley Kringas in the new Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical Merrily We Roll Along – the latest in a string of creative hits from director-producer Harold Prince and Sondheim, following Company, Follies and Sweeney Todd.

Lonny Price
Lonny Price Photo by Monica Simoes

Three decades since Merrily We Roll Along played its infamously troubled Broadway run of 16 performances and a prolonged 52-performance preview period, Price is re-connecting with his fellow original cast members for the upcoming film "OUR TIME: a documentary about growing up."

Price previously spoke with Playbill.com about his intentions for the film. Read the interview here.

The Emmy Award winner and Tony Award nominee also shared a behind-the-scenes story about one of Sondheim's most-performed songs, "Good Thing Going," one of the many stand-outs from the score to Merrily We Roll Along.

"We got the parts and we were supposed to go into rehearsals in March, but Steve hadn't finished the score," Price recalls. "So, Hal brought us into the room and said, 'The good news is this is the cast of Merrily We Roll Along!,' and everybody screamed and cheered, and then he said, 'The bad news is we won't go into rehearsal for eight months.' Which at that point, seemed like an eternity, when you're that age."

Price and the young cast, all of whom were ages 15-25 at the time, began throwing parties to get to know one another and to also pass the time until the start of rehearsals. "I had co-hosted a party at my house with James Weisenbach, who was then, the original Frank. Someone said, 'You should invite Hal,' and I said, 'Oh, he's not going to want to come.' But, I called him and he said, 'We'd love to come!'"

A short while later, Prince and his wife Judy were at the door along with Sondheim and record producer Tom Shephard (Sweeney Todd, Follies, A Little Night Music), who would also produce the cast album of Merrily We Roll Along the morning after the production closed.

During the party Sondheim played selections from the Merrily score on Price's piano. If that weren't a treat enough, according to Price, "He said, 'Lonny, I know it was your birthday a couple of weeks ago and I brought you a birthday present.' Then he sat down and played 'Good Thing Going.'" Price would ultimately sing the ballad in the production.

"I mean, what do you say? There's no way to top experiences like that," Price says looking back. "The great thing is we all knew it when it was going on. Nobody took it for granted. Nobody is looking back going, 'I didn't know what I had.' We all got it, and it meant the world to us."

Price and the original cast of Merrily We Roll Along attended the Feb. 14 performance of the City Center Encores! production of Merrily We Roll Along, which runs through Feb. 19. View photos of the special night here.

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