By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.
When Stephen Sondheim passed away unexpectedly in November 2021, the Broadway community, the American musical, and legends of fans the world over lost a colossus of composition and lyrics who had an unparalleled influence on the art form. He was the last bridge back to Broadway’s “Golden Age,” whose talent, vision, and genius forged unimagined ways forward. Sondheim brought forth a new kind of musical every time he put pen to staff. Simply put, his loss was immeasurable.
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Today, two new Sondheim productions are lighting up New York City with an electric buzz so bright Times Square looks dim by comparison. Currently in previews are the Broadway revival of Merrily We Roll Along, one of Sondheim’s most beloved but equally troubled shows, and the world premiere off-Broadway of Here We Are, the final show he worked on before his death. For Sondheim fanatics, these productions are gifts from the musical theatre gods and a must-see.
Since its original production in 1981, Merrily We Roll Along has had a beloved musical with a brilliant score but a problematic book accruing more theater legend and lore than any three shows combined. With its young “stars of tomorrow” cast, revolutionary storytelling, and theatrical titans Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim together again, the show’s premature closing after 16 performances was catastrophic for those involved. Making Merrily We Roll Along work has been the holy grail of musical theatre ever since. Now 42 years later, it’s back where it began with a new revival that has solved its book and made it the unqualified success fans knew it to be all along.
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Originally staged last season off-Broadway to rave reviews at the New York Theatre Workshop, Merrily We Roll Along has transferred to Broadway along with its star-studded cast of Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff, and Linsey Mendez. The trio recently sat down with CBS Sunday Morning to discuss their production of the iconic show and the friendships they have together.
Merrily We Roll Along is in previews at the Hudson Theatre with an opening date of October 10. More information or to purchase tickets visit MerrilyOnBroadway.com.
For more than a decade, talk of “one last Sondheim musical” has captivated Broadway with occasional workshop readings popping up but never materializing into a production. Even more intriguing was Sondheim’s collaboration on the piece, inspired by two Luis Buñuel films, with the ingenious David Ives as book writer. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect pair for the avant-garde source material, and after years of reworking and several titles, Here We Are seemed destine for production until Stephen Sondheim’s death in 2021.
Everyone wondered if “the last Sondheim” was lost forever. Fortunately, producers came forward insuring Here We Are would be realized and take its place in Stephen Sondheim’s canon of work. Still insiders speculated whether enough of the show had been finished. In a recent article from The New York Times:
“The show, in Sondheim’s pithy description in that last interview, has a ‘so-called plot’ in which ‘the first act is a group of people trying to find a place to have dinner, and they run into all kinds of strange and surreal things, and in the second act, they find a place to have dinner, but they can’t get out.'”
Currently in previews ahead of an October 22 opening, Here We Are is directed by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello and choreography by Sam Pinkleton. The cast features Francois Battiste, Tracie Bennett, Bobby Cannavale, Micaela Diamond, Amber Gray, Jin Ha, Rachel Bay Jones, Denis O’Hare, Steven Pasquale, David Hyde Pierce, and Jeremy Shamos.
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