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Merrily We Roll Along

From Academic Kids

Merrily We Roll Along is a play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, and a musical loosely based on it by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth. The original play opened on Broadway on September 29, 1934 and dealt with a character who has moved from being an idealist in his youth to losing those ideals as he reaches middle age. What made the play unusual was that the action of the play moved backward in time, so that the first scene was the last to take place chronologically, and the last scene was the earliest to occur.

Sondheim and Furth took the basic structure and overall theme of the original play, but updated it to the years from 1955 to 1980. It now concerned a man named Franklin Shepard who is in 1980 a successful film producer but who made his name as a composer of Broadway musicals and who has become cynical and jaded, losing his friends, including his longtime collaborator, Charley Kringas. We go backwards through his life and see how Frank has become the man he is now.

The musical Merrily We Roll Along had a troubled preview period, opened on Broadway on November 16, 1981 and ran for only 16 performances. There have been several attempts at revising the show, some of them more successful than others. Its most successful post-Broadway runs include a limited run at the York Theatre Off-Broadway on May 26, 1994 which played for 54 sold out performances, and a run in London at the Donmar Warehouse which opened on December 1, 2001, which ran for 79 performances and won the Lawrence Olivier Award for Best Musical, Best Actor, and Best Actress. Several of its songs have become favorites, including "Not a Day Goes By", "Good Thing Going", and "Our Time."

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