Left – Zach Selmes, Victoria Zerbst and & Patrick Howard. Cover – Patrick Howard, Shannen Sarstedt, Zach Selmes. Photos – Clare Hawley
“Merrily We Roll Along is my favourite musical.” says Greta Gerwig. That's probably why she features a production of it in her latest, luminous film, Ladybird. “My hope for Lady Bird is that it gives audiences a little bit of the feeling that I got watching Sondheim’s Merrily for the ﬁrst time. That sense of time slipping away, the future charging into the present, the bonds of childhood as only living on in memory. It is aching and beautiful and ﬂeeting and the thing I always look for in art.”
To tell the truth, I attended Little Triangle's production of Merrily We Roll Along on the strength of Gerwig's insertion of the play in her film. Truth to tell, I'm glad I did.
Director/designer Alexander Andrews gives us a no frills, energetic production with a well drilled cast. A seventeen strong ensemble struts their formidable stuff in the small space of the The Depot Theatre, filling it with the joy and verve and sweet melancholy of Stephen Sondheim's music and lyrics and George Furth's book.
Based on a play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, Merrily We Roll Along plots the story of Franklin Shepherd, known as Frank, composer and film producer, who we first meet in 1976, at the top of his professional fame but the bottom of his personal game.
The narrative goes into reverse as we count down the years back to 1957, the past charting the course to the present.
Central to the rise and rise of Frank, the slings and arrows of his outrageous fortune, are his former collaborator, Charley Kringas, and platonic girlfriend, Mary. Mary is the last person standing and her barometric pressure reading of Frank's moral shallowness triggers the “back to the future” journey.
Other constants are Shepherd’s wives, Beth and Gussie, and Broadway producer, Joe.
The three amigos of Frank, Charley and Mary are splendidly rendered by Patrick Howard, Zach Selmes and Victoria Zerbst.
Shannen Sarstedt's wholesome Beth and Matilda Moran's glamorous, bombastic Gussie are capably contrasting, while Richard Woodhouse's Joe is a nice turn in the venally veneered.
Attractive and effervescent support comes from a more than competent company of choreographed choristers comprising Embla Bishop, Phoebe Clark, Blake Condon, Kelly Goddard, Tayla Jarrett, Katelin Koprivec, Jesse Layt, Victoria Luxton, Michael McPhee, Caitlin Rose, and Bowie Parsons.
Musical direction by Conrad Hamill has the compact simplicity of piano and cello, a musician duo upstage, at a volume that enhances rather than upstages the actors.
The simple and elegant design of a plaque of doors designated with the number of years visited during the narrative takes its cue from one of the show's songs, Opening Doors.
Merrily We Roll Along may be small scale musical theatre on a shoestring but it's a boots and all production, that packs plenty of heat and a whole lot of heart.
Greta Gerwig would love it!
Little Triangle presents
Merrily We Roll Along
music and lyrics Stephen Sondheim | book George Furth
Director Alexander Andrews
Venue: The Depot Theatre | 142 Addison Rd, Marrickville NSW
Dates: 7 – 24 March 2018