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Merrily We Roll Along @ Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre

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by Geri Silver (subscribe)
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London's must-see show of the season
If you only go to one show this winter, see Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Merrily We Roll Along at the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre.

Merrily We Roll Along is one of Sondheim's less popular musicals, but this production is proving to London theatregoers that it shouldn't be overlooked. The musical, based on a play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, chronicles the complex friendships and conflicted lives of composer-turned-movie producer Franklin Shepard, playwright and lyricist Charley Kringus, and novelist Mary Flynn and brings the audience on a sensitive and heart-wrenching journey.

The musical opens in 1976, at the Hollywood premiere party for Franklin's new blockbuster film. We quickly realise that despite Franklin's seemingly glamorous lifestyle, Shepard's life is anything but fulfilling. Using a reverse-chronological structure, each following scene moves back in time, re-tracing moments and decisions in life and answering the recurring lyrical question "How did you get to be here?"

This production, directed by Maria Friedman, is excellent. While Merrily marks Friedman's directorial debut, she has a long history with the musical, having played the role of Mary in a 1992 production at the Haymarket Theatre in Leicester. She proves herself to be a skillful director, and together with an incredibly strong cast the show oozes with emotion.

The cast, led by Mark Umbers (Franklin), Jenna Russell (Mary), and Damian Humbley (Charley), absolutely shines in this production. Every single actor is perfectly cast, highlighting the complexity and organic motivations of each character.

There are hundreds of reasons to go see this show. Think of all of the aspects that contribute to a successful musical-- thoughtful direction, beautiful music and orchestrations, a compelling story, a dynamic set, impressive choreography, attractive costumes, and powerful performances-- and the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre is where to find them all. This is the production that everyone will be talking about, and you'll want to join in on that conversation.

Merrily We Roll Along will be playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre near London Bridge until 23 February, 2013. Tickets are priced at 35 for standard seating, 37.50 for premiere seating, 27.50 for groups and concessions, and 41.50 for a meal deal (there is a cool restaurant attached to the theatre). The theatre is relatively small, and there's not a bad seat in the house.

For more information, visit the Menier Chocolate Factory website here.
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Why? A terrific production of an underrated Sondheim musical
Phone: 020 7378 1713
Where: 53 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RU
Cost: 27.50-41.50
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