Closed 1h 45m
Merrily We Roll Along
Midtown W
78

Merrily We Roll Along NYC Reviews and Tickets

78%
(329 Reviews)
Positive
84%
Mixed
14%
Negative
2%
Members say
Entertaining, Clever, Great staging, Great singing, Ambitious

About the Show

Roundabout’s company in residence, Fiasco Theater, brings their imaginative, stripped-down aesthetic to Stephen Sondheim's musical about about a trio of showbiz friends who fall apart and come together over 20 years.

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Member Reviews (329)

79
Absorbing, Clever, Well staged, Thought-provoking, Truncated

See it if you like Sondheim. Not the full MWRA experience, but enjoyable. Fast-paced, gd songs (altho iffy voices), sad story about dreams gone awry.

Don't see it if you want the show's full emotional impact; 90 min version is flattened. None of the many losses seemed devastating. Clever use of sm cast.

71
Clever, Resonant, Great writing, Absorbing

See it if A good body of work that is lite and breezy. Nice plotline.

Don't see it if If you need a musical with strong singing, singer's are not that great.

Critic Reviews (37)

February 19th, 2019

"Not so much stripped-down as emaciated. All of the contrasts of idealism and greed, gloss and substance so central to the story’s effectiveness are flattened under the pressure of forcing it to stand without enough legs...The songs, with all their polish removed, no longer reflect the coherent Broadway world of the story...Often radically reconceived, harshly truncated or left to dribble away, they no longer ennoble the characters or provide much pleasure for the audience."
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February 19th, 2019

“Fiasco’s earnest love for the material is evident...And the cumulative effect is…pretty good. Despite an abundance of appealing parts, this 'Merrily' doesn’t quite come together into a real gut-punch of a whole. There’s much that’s nice some that’s very funny, and a bit that’s beautiful, yet the show’s emotional power feels blunted and its aesthetic suspended somewhere between minimalist and maximalist. There’s no shortage of spirit on offer, but visceral oomph is elusive.”
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February 19th, 2019

“The latest effort to crack the ‘Merrily’ code...Only half-works...Fiasco looked at the 1930s source play, four versions of the Merrily scripts and archival material provided by Sondheim himself...The result is very smooth and the reverse narration works very well...Unfortunately, the performances are not always up to snuff...By the end, which is the beginning, this neat, tidy ‘Merrily’ feels merely like a stopgap production as we await the inevitable next staging of this gloriously messy show.”
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February 19th, 2019

“This cast brims with nerve, energy and overreach...Though in this production...Brody has a keen eye for revelatory details that perk up scenes and deepen characters...Both Narayan and Steinfeld have the strongest voices in the cast and deliver on their numbers big time...Vocally, the rest of the cast just isn’t up to the task. And while some details of the script are enhanced in the staging and the playing, others are diminished.”
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February 19th, 2019

“A satisfying scaled-down revival...It may not be the definitive ‘Merrily’, and anyone familiar with the show will probably miss its dynamic original orchestrations and smashing overture...Vocally underpowered and underpopulated. But on the whole...theatrically effective, smart and emotionally wrenching...Most critical to its success, the production brings to the forefront the three-way friendship of Frank, Mary and Charley and conveys the overwhelming insecurity of every character.”
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February 19th, 2019

"Under the seamless direction of Noah Brody, it's largely a success...Sondheim’s score, thanks to a terrific eight-piece band, sounds beautiful as ever with lyrics that paint the most detailed portraits in a single verse. If the performers don’t all have the most trained voices, they are first-rate actors who deliver each song with great clarity and naturalism. Some problems remain; the dialogue can sound stilted...But so strong is this company, we hardly notice the book’s flaws now."
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February 19th, 2019

“Fiasco Theater's new production is ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ as Frankenstein's Monster...The problems lie with the cast, who don't have the pipes to successfully articulate Sondheim's beautiful melodies, or the acting texture to grab at the emotions...This ‘Merrily’ prioritizes acting over singing, and it comes at the expense of the score. But even still, not all of the performances are up to the task of sustaining the emotional tension needed."
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February 26th, 2019

“This vest-pocket production by Fiasco Theater does get some things right...Still, there's little getting around the fact that ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ is overwrought to the point of soap opera...This production is largely inhabited by actors with no real musical theatre skills...They seem to have few ideas about phrasing, breath control, or how to shape a number...Under Brody's broad play-to-the-rafters direction, the cast often seems lumbered by the shortcomings of Furth's writing.”
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February 24th, 2019

"The score is still great. And the show is still a downer...Noah Brody's direction is lively, but could use more focus: So much is going on, we're not always sure where to look. Aurally, there have been better 'Merrilys'...The characters change, largely for the worse, but the transitions seem to happen offstage, and we're left with scene-by-scene snapshots of their downward progression. We end up liking none of them."
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February 19th, 2019

“Exciting and creatively successful...Those familiar with the score will be struck from the outset by a brave and most fortuitous reinstatement 'Rich and Happy,' which seems to have been used only in the original 1981 production of the show...The cast is exceptional...If the thought of a reduced ‘Merrily’ leaves you apprehensive of the handling of Sondheim’s score, fear not...’Merrily’ does work, indeed; just look at it now, at the Roundabout.”
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February 19th, 2019

“A leaner incarnation of the musical, with no intermission and no substantial addition to the score. There’s rather a tightened focus on the potent but fragile bonds among Charley, Frank, and Mary...If Fiasco’s staging falls short of a revelation, or reinvention, it unearths the joys and pain at this vexing but compelling musical’s core, making it feel freshly vital.”
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February 27th, 2019

"Stephen Sondheim's most autobiographical and intimate musical, 'Merrily We Roll Along,' is now in revival at the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theater. Having seen six other productions since it's Broadway premiere in 1980, this current Fiasco Theater version utilizing a cast of six is perhaps the best of the eight I've seen--including two in London, the rest in New York."
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February 22nd, 2019

“An exuberant, engaging production...’Merrily’ is a perfect fit for this company of theatre artists who came of age together since their university days...Brody directs with skill and verve and the company shines...Fiasco has put its collective heart and soul into this production."
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February 24th, 2019

"Though vocalizing is not this production's strong suit, Fiasco puts them over with their special flair...But for all the clever touches and Latarro's peppy choreography, the many lovely songs are still attached to a structural gimmick that viewers of the large cast version found too confusing...I rather doubt that the strong acting, inventiveness, charm and stylishness, will turn Sondheim's major flop into a belated major hit likely to move to Broadway. But there's plenty here to enjoy."
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February 22nd, 2019

“A sympathetic and reworked revival...The downside to beginning at the end is that it makes for a bummer of an evening. With all the leads unlikable from the start, it is an uphill battle for the ensemble to win the audience’s hearts and minds. And even though the final scenes are spirited and uplifting, they are also classically tragic since the trio’s fate has already been determined...The supporting cast has an easier time of it."
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February 27th, 2019

"One issue for some people might be in the manner of narration of the play...Somewhere along the line, some plot lines get blurred and lost...Perhaps in shortening the play, some of the storyline has been deleted...It is interesting that only Mary changed over the 25 years. Did I pick up on that because I am a woman?"
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March 2nd, 2019

"Fiasco Theater is giving it their best shot, attempting to find the true heart and pacing of 'Merrily'...The Fiasco team have attempted to tighten up the material, treating the piece like a new show in development...The tightening has cost the show a bit of its connect-ability, forcing the highs and lows of emotionality to come too quickly...The subtlety has been chopped away, leaving an emotional rollercoaster...The killer songs are performed with passion but not so much power."
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February 20th, 2019

"Lacks the emotional depth of the characters needed to successfully bring forth the message; additionally, the cast is not vocally capable of delivering most of the brilliant musical numbers...Director Noah Brady moves the action along at a nice pace and makes the reversal of time clear and entertaining with some clever costume changes but fails to dig deep enough into each of these wounded characters whose dreams and relationships are shattered. "
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February 22nd, 2019

“Fiasco has added some agreeable touches, and cleared up some of the confusion and annoyance that greeted the 1981 production...The ensemble members are appealing performers...They are more successful when the characters transform into appealing youths...Fiasco’s most consequential concept is to pare down the size of the cast...A choice that creates a new level of confusion. It also sends a signal that all those characters don’t really matter. And it’s hard to argue that they do.”
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February 19th, 2019

"By stripping away much of the glitzy previous trappings of some prior outings (even though Derek McLane's theatrical warehouse set could keep you entranced for hours); cutting the show's intermission (and a song or two); and, above all, placing its emphasis squarely on its six primary characters -- who are now significantly less hateful and slightly less interesting than often presented - that dilemma becomes less existential and far more human."
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February 22nd, 2019

"Despite a lively pace that keeps things rolling…, proficient staging, and nimble and creative choreography…, nothing can disguise the thinness of the characters. Each has one or two dominant traits that vary little through the evening…Overall, the characters have such solipsistic, charmless personalities that cheering or sympathizing with them is barely an option…None of the performances, despite their technical adeptness…, possess the magical appeal that suggests future stardom."
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March 7th, 2019

".The current incarnation...does get half the formula right, and does so better than in any other production I've seen. Where Fiasco succeeds, it does so by boiling down 'Merrily' to its essence...Unfortunately, there is the other half of the equation...What this production does, unintentionally one assumes, is to emphasize 'Merrily's' flaws... Sondheim's score remains wonderful, but Mr. Furth's script...simply does not hold up to scrutiny."
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February 19th, 2019

"The staging is very creative. The acting is first-rate; the singing leaves a bit to be desired in a case or two...Brody’s direction is fluid and assured. While I doubt that I will ever include ‘Merrily’ among my favorite Broadway musicals, I grant that this production makes a strong case for it and provides an entertaining experience.”
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February 19th, 2019

“The problem is, I didn’t identify with the characters in 1981 and I don’t in 2019, even with age-appropriate actors in the roles. Worse, I don’t find them interesting on any level...Cutting a good half hour out of 'Merrily' doesn’t solve the book’s problems. The cuts simply reduce each scene to a cliché...Brody’s direction doesn’t always make sense...Brody handles the time element with greater ease but little finesse.”
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February 22nd, 2019

"Basically succeeds, even though this is a pared down version that still could stand more editing. It has been deftly re-imagined in the direction...and with new orchestrations and arrangements...An excellent cast is sufficiently appealing to make one care for the characters...The revival is enjoyable to watch, as well as reminding us of how creative this Sondheim work is despite the book’s complexity.”
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March 1st, 2019

"Falls short despite many improvements and arresting moments. The main problem is the basic concept...The small cast delivers Sondheim’s gorgeous and complex melodies with honesty and flair. They also manage to endow the slender characters with all the believable passion Furth’s dialogue lacks...'Merrily' remains the problem child of Sondheim’s creations, but it does contain one of his loveliest scores."
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February 23rd, 2019

"Brody's casting choices also have their plusses and minuses...on the up side, those actors, many of whom have been collaborating since their college days, put to good use the comfortable familiarity and knowing frustrations that come from their own long association. They're also clever at integrating into their stagecraft the Fiasco trademarks of inventive stage business...Here's a significient negative: their vocal strengths vary from impressive to not-all-that-great."
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February 27th, 2019

"The show once again proves its brilliance, with Sondheim’s ear- and soul-filling score and the poignancy of its intention overcoming whatever clunky defects remain in its unconventional storytelling...That energy, with the cast pared down to just six terrific performers under the inspired direction of Noah Brody is one of the key elements making this redo such an exhilarating experience...The score has been thinned but with no feeling of disruption."
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March 1st, 2019

"The three principals (Jessie Austrian, Ben Steinfeld and Manu Narayan) play Mary, Frank, and Charles (the three old friends) brilliantly. As a group they work as one...You’ll be humming their tunes for days, and the words remind us that lyrics in a musical play are supposed to tell us something about the character who is singing them...If a commercial run can’t be arranged, I can only hope this production is recorded for the archives."
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February 28th, 2019

“The problem, though, is that Fiasco, in abbreviating the work, never gives us time to know these characters...Ultimately, however, we never bond with Frank, Charley, and Mary quite like they bond with one another; in fact, we never really learn what they like about each other in the first place. Because of its scope, and because of the cathartic potential of the material, I still hold out hope that ‘Merrily’ will someday find its final, satisfying version. But this is not it."
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February 25th, 2019

"Even though the cast has been stripped down to six, the stage feels as full as those shelves because of the well-paced staging...The central role of Frank could be played with more charisma and some of the other actors’ line readings are overly glib, but I felt 'Merrily' was worth the ride this time, as a heady exercise in the pitfalls of thinking the past used to be better—except that it really was. Except for 1981."
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February 19th, 2019

“The wonderfully imperfect musical with some perfectly wonderful songs has invited endless tinkering...Finally it seems someone has gotten it close to right. Fiasco, may not have solved all the show's problems, but the innovative company has come up with an entertaining, enjoyable production that revitalizes the bittersweet story...Trimming the cast to a tight ensemble of six fine performers doesn't really help, but supplementing with material from the original source does clarify the action.”
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February 19th, 2019

“Here’s an early contender for the most exhilarating production of the year...What is presented here is free of clutter and fuss — whatever surgical work Fiasco has done on the show, there are no visible scars — and Sondheim’s achingly gorgeous score is given vibrant life...The three excellent leads...are perfectly believable...Brody wisely trusts the core of the material...The result is humane, affecting and completely realized.”
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February 19th, 2019

“Brody directed this revival with nice touches cleverly embracing and winking at the reverse chronology...The entire cast is solid but admittedly not all are virtuoso singers. This is first and foremost a storytelling production...In the end, the still imperfect ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ remains one of musical theater’s ‘Old Friends’ worth your time...The thoughtful Fiasco Theatre troupe has given us a reason to enjoy this score once again and reconsider this continually evolving piece.”
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March 3rd, 2019

"It's both easier to follow and more clear where the holes in the story are. But the cast, though they occasionally have unsteady voices, brings a warmth and poignancy that feels fresh...Maybe this is as good as it gets — six entangled characters who hurt themselves as they try to thrive."
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February 20th, 2019

“The good news is that three main characters present clearly, the bad news is that all the frailties of George Furth’s book are on plain display...This ‘Merrily’ not only moves faster than its predecessor but also transitions smoothly form scene to scene, from year to year...Brody introduces some nifty touches...Sometimes, Fiasco’s spare, inventive staging doesn’t get beyond gimmicky...Fiasco’s production doesn’t discover anything in 'Merrily' that hadn’t been plumbed before.”
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February 28th, 2019

"Those three performers and three others comprise the entire cast, a compression that better served Fiasco’s 2015 reduction of Sondheim’s 'Into the Woods.' That show’s eleven singer/actor/musicians nailed both score and character; this one’s half-dozen illuminate neither. Even directed by the same Noah Brody, the piece is in soft focus...What survives the indifferent production is the Sondheim score."
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