Archikulture Digest
Merrily We Roll Along

Merrily We Roll Along

Valencia College • Orlando Florida

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

directed by John DiDonna

starring Gabriel Ramos, Edwin J. Perez II, Courtney Harris

It’s tough work cranking out a Broadway smash, but Franklin Shepard (Gabriel Ramos) and Charley Kringas (Edwin J. Perez II) try. They hang out with aspiring actress Mary Flynn (Courtney Harris), and all three work on breaking into the big time in post-war NYC.

We follow this slightly autobiographical story of two young aspiring playwrights. The story flows on a reverse timeline, and while that’s edgy, it’s also a bit confusing. We begin with Franklin Shepard sitting high in a penthouse at the pinnacle of an award-studded career, surrounded by trophies. Frank ends the show with his youthful friends on a rooftop, all dreaming of success. This sort of theatrical tomfoolery arose in the later 20th century, as television gnawed its way into American entertainment. It’s out of fashion these days, and the art form is better for losing that gimmick. Can I summarize the details? There are too many to list here, but you will find your way through with patience and a notepad. And while the music is a bit avant-garde, it’s not really hummable.

Merrily is an interesting show, but by no means a great one. It suffers from attempting to be too cute, and requires some backstory info to make sense. But it’s in revival in New York, and popular even as one of Sondheim’s biggest flops. We do love our spectacular train wrecks.

Fortunately, this version of the show is beautifully designed and executed. There’s always motion on stage, always music, and even scene changes come charged with a mission and a strategy. This is a very beautiful production of an important but rarely staged piece of theater. It’s worth attending, both due to its rarity in the producing world, and its quirky script that is a must see for any aspiring theater professional.

Valencia College

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