Derby Playhouse, Derby (UK) • 5 May 2007 • 7:30pm
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by George Furth. Based on the original play by George Kaufman and Moss Hart.
Directed by Karen Louise Hebden. Musical director: Andrew Synnott. With Glyn Kerslake (Frank Shepard), Glenn Carter (Charley Kringas), Eliza Lumley (Mary Flynn), Julie-Alanah Brighten (Gussie Carnegie), Cheryl McAvoy (Beth Spencer), Michael Beckley (Joe Josephson)…
Merrily seems to affect me more each time I see it, and not only because it has a superb score. Life is about making choices, accepting compromises and going different ways — that, of course, gets all the clearer as time goes by. With its backward-moving story, Merrily ends as the young protagonists, aware that “their time” has come, get ready to engage life, strong in their certainty that their dreams will come true. Of course, we’ve just witnessed what’s going to happen in their lives. The contrast between their youthful idealism and the audience’s awareness of reality creates a hell of a powerful blow.
The Derby Playhouse continues its Sondheim series — after good productions of Company and Into the Woods. (I think there has been another show that I haven’t seen.) This production of Merrily We Roll Along shines mainly thanks to its focus on the dramatic aspects of the play. The strong work on the psychology of the characters pays off very powerfully in the end.
Among a uniformly strong cast, I was particularly impressed and moved by Eliza Lumley’s magnificent impersonation of Mary. Her metamorphoses throughout the show, as well as the countless ways in which she shows her love for Frank while he apparently hasn’t got a clue, are truly remarkable.
Sure, it was a shame to have to do with only six musicians… and the set design looked slightly awkward… but this fourth encounter with the show nonetheless left me shaken and disturbed. Which is a compliment, by the way.