"Old Friends" Meet Again: Encores! Cast of Merrily We Roll Along Records Album April 9-10 | Playbill

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News "Old Friends" Meet Again: Encores! Cast of Merrily We Roll Along Records Album April 9-10 The cast and orchestra of the recent Encores! concert of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Merrily We Roll Along reunite April 9-10 to record a two-disc cast album for PS Classics. The recording, like the Feb. 8-19 concert run, will feature completely new orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick.

Celia Keenan-Bolger, Colin Donnell and Lin-Manuel Miranda
Celia Keenan-Bolger, Colin Donnell and Lin-Manuel Miranda Photo by Peter Cunningham

The album will be released June 19, producer and PS Classics co-founder Tommy Krasker told Playbill.com. Label co-founder Philip Chaffin and Sean Patrick Flahaven serve as executive producers.

This new recording will be the only album to include all the changes that Sondheim and Furth made in the decades following Merrily's initial 1981 Broadway run. It's also the first time that the post-1981 material is fully orchestrated for a large Broadway-style orchestra.

For the Encores! production, PS Classics noted, Tunick not only scored the new material (which includes "That Frank," "Growing Up," "Musical Husbands" and "The Blob"), but "newly scored the entire work, including all of the original, surviving songs" and overture.

Krasker, who co-founded PS Classics with Philip Chaffin, told Playbill.com, "I confess I had not seen a production of Merrily since the original, and I was unprepared for how it had been so completely and brilliantly transformed. And then you hear these stunning orchestrations by Jonathan. It felt to us like the culmination of more than 30 years of work by Sondheim and Furth and Lapine and Tunick; how do you not preserve something like that on disc?"

The album is currently available for pre-order at the label's website, psclassics.com. The label is devoted to the American songbook and the heritage of theatre music. Check out other cast recordings that are sold at playbillstore.com. *

The City Center Encores! production of Merrily We Roll Along was headed by Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) as lyricist Charley Kringas, Colin Donnell (Anything Goes) as songwriter Franklin Shepard, Celia Keenan-Bolger (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) as magazine writer Mary Flynn, Betsy Wolfe (Tales of the City, Everyday Rapture) as Franklin's wife Beth, Elizabeth Stanley (Million Dollar Quartet) as Gussie Carnegie (the star of Franklin and Charley's first Broadway hit), Adam Grupper as producer Joe Josephson and Zachary Unger as Frank Jr.

The company also featured Whit Baldwin, Rachel Coloff, Ben Crawford, Joshua Dela Cruz, Bernard Dotson, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Marja Harmon, Leah Horowitz, Mylinda Hull, Michael X. Martin, Sean McKnight, Kenita R. Miller, Patricia Noonan, Andrew Samonsky, Pearl Sun, Charlie Sutton, Jessica Vosk, Karl Warden and Michael Winther.

Read Playbill.com's recent The Leading Men column about Colin Donnell.

James Lapine, who directed a revised version of the 1981 Broadway musical in California in 1985, was at the helm of this concert version at New York City Center. The Encores! production is "based on Furth and Sondheim's rewrite of the show for La Jolla Playhouse in 1985, with elements of the 1990 Leicester, England production and a subsequent York Theatre Company production in 1994 incorporated."

Music direction was by Rob Berman. Musical staging was by Dan Knechtges (Xanadu, …Spelling Bee and Lysistrata Jones). Orchestrations are by Jonathan Tunick, who also did orchestrations in 1981.

Here's how Encores! billed the show: "With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth, Merrily We Roll Along is a musical about friendship and the compromise of youthful ideals, based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The show moves backwards in time from 1980 to 1955 and examines the lives of three people whose friendship is tested by time, events, ambition and fate. It charts the rise of a songwriting team during the years of Sondheim’s own early career and includes some of his most brilliant and bruising songs, such as 'Not a Day Goes By,' 'Old Friends,' 'Our Time' and 'Opening Doors.' Although unsuccessful in its original 1981 Broadway production (which ran 16 performances at the Alvin Theatre), Merrily has gained in stature and reputation over the ensuing years, beginning with a reconfigured version at the La Jolla Playhouse in California in 1985, directed by James Lapine."

Encores! artistic director Jack Viertel said in a previous statement, "While it is, generally, the idea of Encores! to present the original Broadway version of the show, when there are living authors who have specific preferences, we welcome their input. In this case, the authors continued to work on the show after the Broadway production closed, and we certainly want to honor their work." 

Lapine wrote the books for and directed Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, Passion and the recent multi-media revue Sondheim on Sondheim. He collaborated with William Finn on March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, later presented on Broadway as Falsettos, as well as A New Brain, Muscle and the soon-to-be-produced Little Miss Sunshine.


Playbill Video visited the Merrily cast in between rehearsals:

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