We round up the reviews for the Off-Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical starring Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff and Lindsay Mendez.
The Guardian: ★★★★ “If Radcliffe’s voice is not extraordinary, his particular energy is, and he brings a manic liveliness to Charley, which slants toward something darker and less stable in the song ‘Franklin Shepard, Inc’. Mendez has heart and range and a rich, robust timbre. She lacks the absolute control for Mary’s breakdown, but she is engaging in the early scenes when Mary’s hope still outweighs her despair. Reg Rogers is typically exuberant as Joe, a Broadway producer, and Krystal Joy Brown has glamour and malice as his wife.”
The New York Times: “Maria Friedman’s staging brings the intelligence of the songs fully alive and justifies the baroque construction. Her framing snaps the picture almost fully into focus. And with Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez as the show’s central trio of backward-tumbling friends, it is perhaps for the first time perfectly cast.”
The Hollywood Reporter: “Friedman’s revival makes a strong case for Merrily as a deeply affecting play, in which the songs and the drama are integral to one another. More than any other time I’ve seen this show, the piercing melancholy of the three friends’ shattered bonds and illusions hits hard. The musical also reveals itself to be a worthy companion piece to Sondheim and Furth’s Company, bringing the same complexity of ambivalent feelings to friendship as the earlier show brings to marriage and romantic relationships.”
Theater Mania: “Is this Merrily We Roll Along as it was meant to be all along? I think so. Friedman’s production is something of a miracle, finding the beating heart at the centre of a story about friendship, dreams, regrets, and times gone by. They have a good thing going, indeed.”
NY Post: ★★★★ “Has Merrily finally been fixed? Not really, and it never will be. But its storied problems have not only become part of its lore, but also a messy asset in our dismal era of mechanical, assembly-line musicals produced by movie studios.Merrily is an affecting oddball that hits you hard emotionally, even when it creatively misses. Here’s to it. What’s like it? Damn few.”
Observer: “I can honestly say I adore this score and this cast and you might, too. If Sondheim and Furth were writing now, with multiverses in vogue, who knows? They might have explored parallel realities, a multitude of alternate trajectories. Sondheim often wrote about the road you didn’t take, how there are plenty of roads to try, warning us to “never look back”. At the end of the day, this is the road he and his friends laid down; see where it takes you.”
Vulture.com: “Friedman is seemingly so intent on uncovering the possibilities of emotional meaning in each scene, however, that her production can get away from itself. She’s overfond of underlining a moment of realisation by pinpointing Groff in a spotlight and having him give a significant exhalation to mark a realisation.”
Time Out: ★★★★ “As the story moves backward, Groff’s pallid Frank begins to glow with excitement and sincerity; he makes you feel how much Frank loves writing music, and what a self-betrayal his abandonment of it represents. Radcliffe, bright-eyed and tightly wound, is a ball of clenched energy that explodes to great effect in the unhinged talk-show meltdown number ‘Franklin Shepard, Inc’. And Mendez’s funny, lovable Mary is gorgeously sung and brilliantly worked out: Her movement elucidates the lyrics without indicating, and Mary’s unrequited yearning for Frank has perhaps never been plainer or more affecting.”
Talkin’ Broadway: “Sondheim’s score for this show remains one of my favorites, and the world always seems a better place when there is a production of Merrily We Roll Along playing somewhere in it. This isn’t a definitive production by any means, but the best thing about a problematic musical is that there will always be a wonderfully arrogant and visionary artist who thinks they can finally master the beast. Until that time, imperfect as it is, this Merrily will do just fine.”
New York Stage Review: ★★★★★ “Maria Friedman, who directed the revival currently at New York Theatre Workshop, simply seems to accept Merrily just the way it is. No messing about. And that’s why it works so beautifully.”
The Stage: ★★★★ “Starry cast excels in this moving and incisive production of Sondheim’s time-travelling musical.”
Merrily We Roll Along will play at the New York Theatre Workshop until 8 January 2023. The production will transfer to Broadway in autumn 2023.