In somewhat of a departure from the founding The Depot Theatre drama repertiore, musical Merrily We Roll Along opened in Marrickville last night.
With music and lyrics by the renowned (Into The Woods, Sweeny Todd, Company, Sunday In The Park With George, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum) Stephen Sondheim, Merrily We Roll Along although a short lived disaster when first performed in 1981 has been revised and revived successfully a number of times with this end result considered one of his finest scores.
This Little Triangle production is the must see show of the year. It's the best musical theatre I've seen in a long time. In fact it is one of the best shows I've ever enjoyed.
Merrily We Roll Along is enormously entertaining, sparklingly high-spirited and heart-touchingly charming, with incredibly complex and beautiful vocal harmonies.
"Franklin Shepard, a successful songwriter and movie producer in his late thirties, reviews his life, both professional and personal, especially his relationships with his best friends, Mary Flynn and Charley Kringas (his song-writing collaborator), and his two wives, Beth and Gussie. The action moves backward in time from 1976 to 1957, from the disappointments of adulthood, to the hopeful idealism of youth."
As a show about friendships, the opening chorus is reprised throughout the show to depict the connections.
From costumes to choreography it is refreshing to view the shift of eras accurately portrayed by Director and Designer Alexander Andrews. Dance steps mark the repeal of years to the tee. Lighting is simple and approachable with an occasional simple spotlight. Wall mounted doors mark the years.
And the acting singing dancing cast?
The three connecting little pinkies of Frank (Patrick Howard) Charley (Zach Selmes) and Mary (Victoria Zerbst) that symbolise friendship also bind a generosity of gifted young talent who hold us in their changing lives throughout the twenty years - from opening number to standing ovation.
Patrick Howard is faultless in the pivotal role guiding the audience through each nuance of emotion, from dreams through jubilations visions and regrets. His balanced performance is measured and controlled in the right places yet in contrast he bangs out every shade of light and dark and every colour of the rainbow of his character. In the demanding variations of his role Selmes convincingly dramatizes every sentiment that drifts through his life in a most amazing performance. And the trio of gold is completed as Victoria Zerbst redefines glue in her humorous, animated yet heart affecting display of unrequited love and loyalty.
It's great casting. All 17 are on point in their individual effervescent portrayals. And as an ensemble the total crew come together for the most amazing song and dance chorus numbers.
Also on stage are two musicians. The current piece is scored I'm told for 22 instruments. Yet Musical Director Conrad Hamill has done an outstanding job in this musical arrangement that is totally and gorgeously fitting for the intimacy of this venue.
So what's the verdict? You know how to tell when a musical show has connected deep in your soul. You find yourself singing to the songs, even songs you've just heard for the first time on your way home. If its truly fabulous you find yourself singing the songs when you wake up next morning. And I did.
Truly you must make sure you see this show. Prepare to have a laugh, and a cry, and to open your heart.
Five and a half stars out of five. I'm in love.
Merrily We Roll Along is showing at not-for-profit The Depot Theatre until Saturday March 24th