One Minute World Arts- Friendship on and off Stage: Reviving Sondheim’s Flop Musical Merrily We Roll

Stephen Sondheim, the unequivocal maestro of musicals who passed away last year, brought to the world great joy and artistic satisfaction through his work when he was alive, but the 1981 production of his unconventional Merrily We Roll Along was almost disastrous. The show opened to widely negative reviews, and closed soon after its premiere. Its failure even caused Sondheim to stop working with his long-term collaborator and director friend Harold Prince for years. After that, Sondheim tried to re-write the musical a few times, and several productions were presented to renew the audience’s impressions of the show. In November 2022, renowned singer-actor and director Maria Friedman launched an off-Broadway production of Merrily We Roll Along at New York Theatre Workshop in New York City, where her old friend Sondheim was born and building career, with a dream cast including Jonathan Groff, one of the greatest talents of American musicals, Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter star, and the Tony-winning Lindsay Mendez. Friedman regards her version as “a love letter to Sondheim”, hoping that it would make more fans come to appreciate the inner strength of this musical.


Merrily We Roll Along tells a story backwards, portraying the crumbling friendship between three friends from their older age to the young and idealistic period – the unique narrative style is the very reason why many found the musical painfully hard to comprehend four decades ago. However, Friedman’s version places its focus on Franklin, one of the three and a talented composer of musicals, using his perspective to build the narrative flow, and thus making the story unfold more naturally. Meanwhile, the elaborate costumes, the concise orchestration of music, and the clever stage design have all given color to a musical that was once seen as a flop. Friedman’s production of Merrily We Roll Along interprets the profundity of friendship not only on stage but also off stage, and has created both critical acclaim and commercial success to honor Sondheim, her mentor friend. The show will run at New York Theatre Workshop till January 2023.




去年過世的音樂劇大師史蒂芬.桑坦(Stephen Sondheim),生前成就斐然,為觀眾製造了無數的歡樂與感動,卻曾於1981年推出一部首演後不久即因惡評連連而迅速下檔的翻車之作《友情歲月》(Merrily We Roll Along),各界評價之差甚至影響了桑坦與該劇導演哈洛德.普林斯(Harold Prince)兩人間長期共事的情誼。此後,桑坦反覆修改這部作品,新的版本陸續問世,逐漸扭轉大眾對它的既定印象。今年年底,知名的音樂劇演員兼導演瑪莉亞傅利曼Maria Friedman),率領美國音樂劇男神強納森.葛洛夫(Jonathan Groff)、《哈利波特》明星丹尼爾雷德克里夫Daniel Radcliffe,以及東尼獎得主琳西.曼德茲Lindsay Mendez)等人,組成黃金陣容,來到桑坦的出生、創作之地紐約,在外百老匯的紐約戲劇工房New York Theatre Workshop)演出優化版的《友情歲月》。身為桑坦好友的她,把這檔製作視為「一封寫給桑坦的情書」,希望能引領更多戲迷見識這齣劇作的魅力。





Photo Credit ©Sara Krulwich, Brad Barket/Getty Images, Joan Marcus