Watch: An Oral History of Merrily We Roll Along's Journey From Flop to Tony-Nominated Hit | Playbill

Video Watch: An Oral History of Merrily We Roll Along's Journey From Flop to Tony-Nominated Hit

Frank Rich, original cast members, and more reflect on the surprising 43-year journey of this Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical.

When Merrily We Roll Along premiered on Broadway in 1981, it was an unmitigated disaster that lasted just 16 performances following dreadful reviews. Worse, it ended the professional relationship between Stephen Sondheim (the musical's composer-lyricist) and Hal Prince (its director), a collaboration that had created a string of landmark musicals that revitalized and redefined what the Broadway musical could even be throughout the 1970s.

But that wasn't the end of Merrily We Roll Along's story. Just like the musical itself travels from rock bottom to a hopeful, bright end, the musical returned to Broadway in 2023 in what has turned out to not only be more successful than the original production, but more successful than most Broadway productions. Since opening October 10 of last year, the Maria Friedman-directed revival has become a mainstay of the top-grossing Broadway shows every week, and now is nominated for seven 2024 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.

Take a look back at the musical's incredible journey from Broadway flop to stratospheric success story in a new oral history, featuring remarks from the revival cast, members of the original company, some of the influential critics that lambasted the original, and more in the video above.

READ: Lonny Price on Following Merrily We Roll AlongFrom Flop to Triumph

Along with Best Revival of a Musical, Merrily We Roll Along is a Tony nominee for Best Featured Actor and Actress in a Musical (Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez), Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Jonathan Groff), Best Director of a Musical (Friedman), Best Sound Design of a Musical (Kai Harada), and Best Orchestrations (Jonathan Tunick). Winners will be named at The 77th Annual Tony Awards June 16 at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. Keep up on the latest in Tony Awards news at

The revival opened October 10, 2023, at the Hudson Theatre, where it will continue through July 7. Directed by Olivier winner Friedman, the work features music and lyrics by Sondheim and a book by Furth.

The revival stars Radcliffe as Charley Kringas, Groff as Franklin Shepard, and Mendez as Mary Flynn. The trio are all reprising their performances from the production's 2022 Off-Broadway run at New York Theatre Workshop, along with Krystal Joy Brown as Gussie Carnegie, Katie Rose Clarke as Beth Shepard, and Reg Rogers as Joe Josephson. Max Rackenberg, Rocco Van Auken, and Brady Wagner share the role of Frank Jr.

READ: First-Time Tony Nominee Daniel Radcliffe Hopes to Star in Another Musical

The company also includes Sherz Aletaha, Maya Boyd, Leana Rae Concepcion, Ken Krugman, Corey Mach, Talia Simone Robinson, Jamila Sabares-Klemm, Brian Sears, Evan Alexander Smith, Christian Strange, Vishal Vaidya, Natalie Wachen, and Jacob Keith Watson. Rounding out the company as swings are Morgan Kirner, Amanda Rose, and Koray Tarhan. Casting is by Jim Carnahan and Jason Thinger.

Based on the George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart play of the same name, Merrily We Roll Along tracks the lives of three friends navigating the entertainment industry over three decades in reverse chronological order. Sondheim's score includes such songs as "Old Friends," "Now You Know," "Franklin Shepard, Inc.," "Good Thing Going," and "Not a Day Goes By." A revival cast recording was released January 12.

READ: Hey, Old Friend: Lindsay Mendez Returns to Broadway With Merrily We Roll Along

The production features choreography by Tim Jackson and orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick. Scenic and costume design are by Soutra Gilmour, with lighting design by Amith Chandrashaker, sound design by Kai Harada, hair and wig design by Cookie Jordan, music supervision by Catherine Jayes, music direction by Joel Fram, associate music supervision by Alvin Hough, Jr., and music coordination by Kristy Norter.

Sonia Friedman Productions, David Babani, Patrick Catullo, and Jeff Romley lead the revival's producing team.


Take a Look at Production Photos of Merrily We Roll Along on Broadway

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