Merrily We Roll Along @ Menier & Pinter
Posted 06 December 2012 - 07:13 AM
Posted 13 December 2012 - 12:18 AM
It isn't a classic musical in any regard - it mocks itself for this when, late in the second half, a Broadway producer laments the lack of hummable melodies - but then it's trying to do something that most other musicals don't. It's saying the musical can chart ground that might otherwise only be the preserve of the play, or the novel. In essence I think that it, and a few other Sondheims, appeal moreso to people who go mainly to plays not to musicals, and this may explain why it, and his other shows, have found significant favour at the Donmar where people don't go to see Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, or Lloyd Webber.
Anyhow, this is the fifth production I've seen of it, and all have had their strengths. All, as it goes, have had good Marys. It seems getting her right is a real anchor for most directors who embark on this show which is so prismatic that you almost can't render the whole thing perfectly. Every director needs to decide whether they're going to go for older actors who then aren't so natural as the years roll back, or younger ones who don't have sufficient gravitas when the story ends at the start. To be honest, you just have to forgive any production whatever choice it makes here. All told, this one strikes a really good balance, across the board, better than most.
I thought the three leads were as good as any leading trio I've seen do it, and yes I loved the benchmark Donmar gang. I can't imagine anyone getting Mary's bittersweet sass better than Samantha Spiro but Jenna Russell's Mary is all the more moving, those big plaintive eyes reminding us how much the show is about longing. Damian Humbley is as gorgeously geeky as you could ever hope Charlie could be, and Mark Umbers really does walk the tightrope between making Frank loathsome and understandable with massive panache. Think of his snake-hipped superficiality in the opening scenes then his goofy exuberance in the revue show and finally up on the roof. For me, he's definitely the best Frank I've yet seen. Josefina Gabrielle is the best Gussie too. A stunning minx, then beautifully demure in her final incarnation.
I have to say I never imagined Maria Friedman would have the chops for it, but the whole thing is rendered beautifully with lots of loving little details which complement the many gorgeous little mirrors and cross-references in Sondheim's lyrics and score. And it's the version of Merrily I prefer - none of the needless 'Hills of Tomorrow', but instead the one that fully charts a distorted and overblown 'Good Thing Going' gradually returning to its original simplicity. I suspect it's always going to be one of the more elusive of Sondheim's shows, because it is tricksy and it 'aint hummable (most of the time), but this production gives it its best shot yet of enjoying wider favour than before, and I'm thrilled they've had a sell-out because they've clearly put so much love and thought into it.
Posted 15 December 2012 - 11:03 AM
Posted 15 December 2012 - 11:27 AM
And who could see that the road would twist
Posted 27 December 2012 - 09:00 PM
Posted 31 December 2012 - 06:03 AM
I promise I'll find my marbles soon.
Posted 31 December 2012 - 03:16 PM
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