Hey, Old Friend: Will Roundabout Bring Merrily Back to Broadway?

News   Hey, Old Friend: Will Roundabout Bring Merrily Back to Broadway?
As a new production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park With George dawns on Broadway this week, Bloomberg.com reports that the Roundabout Theatre Company is eyeing another Stephen Sondheim show from the 1980s — Merrily We Roll Along.
James Lapine
James Lapine Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The 1981 Broadway flop with music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by George Furth earned wide fan loyalty after the release of its original cast album. "Old Friends," "Good Thing Going" and "Not a Day Goes By" are three of its more popular musical numbers, aired in cabarets and recorded by divas and crooners.

Since its brief Harold Prince-directed Broadway run, the authors revisited and revised their script and score, and the show found renewed life in regional presentations (including at the Kennedy Center in the Sondheim Celebration), an Off-Broadway staging (which spawned a cast album) and in productions abroad (including London).

Chief among changes in the rewrite is nixing the idea of youthful performers playing graduating students who assume the principal roles in the showbiz fable about friendship, loyalty and making art.

(The musical about a pair of Broadway songwriters, Frank and Charley, and their third-wheel writer friend, Mary, is told in backward-order, starting in 1980 and leading to the characters' origins in 1955.)

Bloomberg.com reported that the Roundabout Theatre Company is exploring the idea of producing Merrily in the 2009-10 season. Lapine, Sunday's book writer and a respected director, would stage the production. Lapine directed a seminal revision of Merrily at the La Jolla Playhouse in the 1980s. There is no official announcement by Roundabout, which has provided a home for Sondheim shows in recent years with revivals of Assassins, Pacific Overtures, Follies and 1995's Company.

However, Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes told Bloomberg.com that there are indeed talks about the staging.

"I definitely want to do Merrily," Haimes told Bloomberg.com. "We've talked to James about it. I am hopeful he will direct it."

Merrily We Roll Along is inspired by the play of the same named by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. At the top of the show, the pals are cynical and separated. By evening's end, we see their younger selves eagerly looking forward to the future.

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