Merrily We Roll Along Review

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford- until 19 May 2018.

Reviewed by Antonia Hebbert


Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s 1981 musical fizzes along with tremendous energy and sparkle, which is just as well as it’s a pretty sad tale of dashed hopes and broken dreams.

The focus is on three friends – composer/producer Frank (Lee Thomas), critic Mary (Ana Richardson), and writer Charley (Elliott Griffiths). At the beginning we see Frank seemingly at the pinnacle of success, and then successive scenes reel us back through time, showing how their loves, friendships and ideals have got mangled over the decades. All three give compelling performances, and around them is a terrific supporting cast, nimbly adapting to being TV presenters, glamorous partygoers, disapproving parents or whatever the scene requires, with great singing and nifty choreography (by Jordan Lee Davis). Oh, and they also shift the odd bit of scenery in the simple but effective set.

This is a real team effort, so it almost seems unfair to pick out names, but Adam Linstead is completely convincing as the world weary producer Joe, husband of Gussie (Anna Vardy), who draws Frank towards commercial success and relationship failure.

This show was a flop at first, perhaps because its sad storyline and technical demands were too much for its young performers. One review apparently called it a ‘shambles’. No danger of that in this production, which is very crisp and proficient. The director is Charlotte Conquest. Musical director Alex Parker leads the able band at the back of the stage, and keeps the pace bouncing along.