Everything you need to know about 'Merrily We Roll Along' on Broadway
Read our complete guide to the first Broadway revival of this classic Stephen Sondheim musical starring Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe, and Lindsay Mendez.
It's a hit! Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Merrily We Roll Along may have gotten off to a rocky start, but in the years since its ill-fated premiere in 1981, the show has become a bonafide classic that's celebrated for its gorgeous score and timeless themes of friendship and hope — and how money and fame can derail them.
In 2012, director Maria Friedman revived Merrily We Roll Along in London, reinventing the musical into a smashing success. Her production made its NYC debut in 2022 to sold-out crowds and now, it's transferring to Broadway with stars Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe, and Lindsay Mendez.
Not a day goes by that we're not anticipating this revival — Merrily's first on Broadway — going up this September. Learn more about the show's history of productions, transformations, and celebrity stars below, then grab your old friends and roll up to the Hudson Theatre.
Get Merrily We Roll Along tickets now.
What is Merrily We Roll Along about?
Merrily We Roll Along is set in the showbiz world of the 1950s to 1970s, centering on three friends: composer Frank Shepard, lyricist/playwright Charley Kringas, and theatre critic Mary Flynn. The show follows the disintegration of the trio's bond over 20 years, from when they meet as young, aspiring artists to when Frank has left theatre — and his friends — behind for a swanky life as a Hollywood producer.
Merrily We Roll Along tells this story in reverse chronological order, starting in 1976 and going back in time to 1957.
Where is Merrily We Roll Along playing?
Merrily We Roll Along plays the Hudson Theatre, located at 141 W 44th St. between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. The Hudson is simultaneously Broadway's oldest and newest theatre: The building first opened in 1903, but it was later used for non-Broadway purposes before being shut down and completely renovated. The Hudson as a Broadway theatre in 2017.
The Hudson has become a hub for celebrity-led, limited-run shows. Recent tenants include A Doll's House starring Jessica Chastain and Plaza Suite starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick.
How long is Merrily We Roll Along?
Merrily We Roll Along on Broadway runs approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including an intermission. This is a typical Broadway musical length; they run between 2 and 3 hours on average.
What days is Merrily We Roll Along playing?
Merrily We Roll Along plays eight performances a week. For the most up-to-date weekly performance schedule, visit the Merrily We Roll Along page.
When did Merrily We Roll Along premiere?
Merrily We Roll Along premiered directly on Broadway in 1981. That production didn't last long, but it was clear the creative team had a good thing going — the show just needed some adjusting. Discover a timeline of Merrily We Roll Along's development below, up to its latest iteration.
- 1981: Merrily We Roll Along premieres on Broadway. Sondheim received praise for his score, but the show overall got negative reviews and closed after only 68 performances.
- 1983: Merrily We Roll Along premieres in the U.K. at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama. A year later, Manchester's Library Theatre Company put on the first professional U.K. production of the show.
- 1994: Merrily We Roll Along returns to New York, this time in an Off-Broadway revival directed by Susan H. Schulman. With Furth and Sondheim's blessing, Schulman streamlined the show, and this production's version of the plot is most commonly performed today.
- 2012: Maria Friedman directs a revival of Merrily We Roll Along in London. Her production received widespread critical acclaim, winning multiple awards. The show transferred to the West End and was filmed for cinemas a year later.
- 2022: Friedman directs an Off-Broadway revival of Merrily We Roll Along at New York Theatre Workshop, based on her 2012 staging. It, too, receives widespread praise and buzz for its celebrity leads: Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe, and Lindsay Mendez.
- 2023: Friedman's Merrily We Roll Along production transfers to Broadway's Hudson Theatre for a limited engagement beginning in September. The full principal cast from the 2022 production transfers, including Groff, Radcliffe, Mendez, Katie Rose Clarke (as Beth), Krystal Joy Brown (as Gussie), and Reg Rogers (as Joe).
Who wrote Merrily We Roll Along?
The Merrily We Roll Along musical is based on a play of the same name written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The pair wrote multiple shows together, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning You Can't Take It with You.
George Furth adapted Kaufman and Hart's Merrily We Roll Along script into the musical's book, and Stephen Sondheim wrote music and lyrics. The duo also collaborated on the musical Company.
Sondheim, one of the most celebrated modern theatre composers, is known for composing multiple other celebrated musicals, including Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park With George, and Into the Woods.
Merrily We Roll Along characters
Merrily We Roll Along features a large ensemble, but only a handful of principal characters, all of whom are in showbiz. Learn more about the main characters of Merrily We Roll Along below.
- Franklin Shepard: A composer-turned-film producer. As he trades theatrical writing for Hollywood, he becomes elitist and loses his friends' respect.
- Charley Kringas: A playwright and lyricist, and Frank's former writing partner. He dislikes Frank's commercial ambitions, preferring to write for art's sake.
- Mary Flynn: A wannabe novelist-turned-theatre critic. She meets Charley and Frank in their shared apartment building, but she sinks into alcoholism as her career flails and her love for Frank remains unrequited.
- Gussie Carnegie: A Broadway star and Frank's second wife. She seduces Frank while both are still married, and she introduces him to the glamorous world of fame.
- Beth Spencer: Frank's first wife, who he meets and marries young. She is a fellow performer and a part of Frank, Charley, and Mary's friend group before divorcing Frank.
- Joe Josephson: A Broadway producer and Gussie's first husband, who has a hard fall from grace — and wealth — after they split.
Merrily We Roll Along songs
Merrily We Roll Along features one of Sondheim's most inventive scores, which includes beloved tunes like "Not a Day Goes By" and "Good Thing Going." As the show is told backwards, reprises of songs appear before their "originals," and repeated melodies surface throughout the show.
- Overture – Orchestra
- "Merrily We Roll Along" – Company
- "That Frank" – Franklin, Mary and Guests
- "First Transition" – Company
- "Old Friends" (Part I) – Mary and Charley
- "Like It Was" – Mary
- "Franklin Shepard, Inc." – Charley
- "Second Transition" – Company
- "Old Friends" (Part II) – Mary, Franklin, and Charley
- "Growing Up" – Franklin and Gussie
- "Third Transition" – Company
- "Not a Day Goes By" – Beth
- "Now You Know" – Mary and Company
- Entr'acte – Orchestra
- "Act Two Opening" – Gussie
- "It's a Hit" – Franklin, Charley, Mary, Joe, and Beth
- "Fourth Transition" – Company
- "The Blob" – Gussie and Company
- "Growing Up" (Part II) – Gussie
- "Good Thing Going" – Charley
- "The Blob" (Part II) – Company
- "Fifth Transition" – Company
- "Bobby and Jackie and Jack" – Charley, Beth, Franklin, and Pianist
- "Not a Day Goes By" (Reprise) – Beth, Franklin, and Mary
- "Sixth Transition" – Company
- "Opening Doors" – Franklin, Charley, Mary, Joe, and Beth
- "Seventh Transition" – Franklin Shepard Jr., Beth, and Mrs. Spencer
- "Our Time" – Franklin, Charley, Mary, and Company
What awards has Merrily We Roll Along won?
Even though Merrily We Roll Along was famously a flop upon its premiere, the show has earned numerous honors and nominations. Learn about the major awards Merrily We Roll Along's productions have won.
- Tony Awards: Sondheim received a 1982 Tony Award nomination for Best Original Score. Whether the 2023 revival will earn nominations of its own has yet to be seen until spring 2024.
- Drama Desk Awards: The original Merrily Broadway production won Sondheim the award for Outstanding Lyrics and a nomination for Outstanding Music.
- Olivier Awards: Merrily We Roll Along was a much quicker hit across the pond. The 2001 premiere production won the Olivier for Best New Musical along with two acting awards, and the 2013 revival won Best Musical Revival.
- Evening Standard Theatre Award: The 2013 London revival won Best Musical at this ceremony.
Why did Merrily We Roll Along flop when it opened in 1981?
Merrily We Roll Along opened to mostly negative reviews, which criticized the book; its gloomy themes of doomed friendship and the consequences of putting greed above creativity; and the reverse-chronological nature of the story, believing it hard to follow.
But in some ways, Merrily We Roll Along was just ahead of its time. Now that book revisions have been made and the storytelling structure is more widely understood, the musical is a widely beloved classic. One critic, Clive Barnes, even predicted as much back in 1981, writing, "It is far too good a musical to be judged by those twin kangaroo courts of word of mouth and critical consensus."
Celebrities who have starred in Merrily We Roll Along
The Broadway revival of Merrily We Roll Along is star-studded, and past productions have also featured big names in the leading roles. Learn more about the celebrity casts of Merrily We Roll Along on stage and screen.
- Daniel Radcliffe: Radcliffe played Charley Kringas off Broadway in 2022 and reprises the role for the 2023 Broadway transfer. Radcliffe is best known for playing the title role in the Harry Potter series and has since played a diverse array of roles on stage and screen.
- Jonathan Groff: Groff plays Frank Shepard in Merrily We Roll Along opposite Radcliffe and Mendez. His best-known credits include Glee on screen and Hamilton and Spring Awakening on Broadway.
- Lindsay Mendez: Mendez rounds out the 2022-23 trio of Merrily stars as Mary Flynn. She is a Tony Award winner for playing Carrie Pipperidge in the 2018 revival of Carousel.
- Jason Alexander: Alexander is best known for playing George Costanza on Seinfeld, but he's also a stage veteran who made his Broadway debut as Joe Josephson in the 1981 premiere production of Merrily We Roll Along.
- Lin-Manuel Miranda: The Pulitzer-, Tony-, Grammy-, and Emmy-winning creator of Hamilton played Charley Kringas in the 2012 Encores! production of Merrily We Roll Along.
- Victor Garber: Stage and screen star Garber starred as Frank in a 1990 production of the musical in D.C.
- Paul Mescal: Mescal will play Frank in the upcoming film adaptation of Merrily We Roll Along. He is known for his Emmy-nominated performance in the TV series Normal People.
- Ben Platt: Platt, the Tony Award-winning star of Dear Evan Hansen and the 2023 Broadway revival of Parade, will play Charley in the Merrily movie.
- Beanie Feldstein: Feldstein will play Mary in the Merrily film. She is known for her film appearances in Lady Bird, Booksmart, and Neighbors 2, and for originating the role of Fanny Brice in the first Broadway revival of Funny Girl.
Screen adaptations of Merrily We Roll Along
A film adaptation of Merrily We Roll Along is in the works, starring Paul Mescal as Frank, Ben Platt as Charley Kringas, and Beanie Feldstein as Mary Flynn. Director Richard Linklater is filming the movie in real time over the course of 20 years, so the actors will actually age with their characters.
Major productions of Merrily We Roll Along
Through the years, Merrily We Roll Along has received various remounts since its 1981 premiere. As tweaks have been made, the show has morphed from a flop into a beloved classic. Learn more about Merrily We Roll Along's production history below.
- 1981 Broadway premiere: The premiere production of Merrily We Roll Along featured a cast of teenage and young adult actors, who played the characters at all ages. This was director Harold Prince's idea, and though it didn't pay off commercially, the show kickstarted the careers of performers like Jason Alexander and Tonya Pinkins.
- 1983 U.K. premiere: The first U.K. production of Merrily We Roll Along was actually a college production at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Its professional U.K. premiere took place a year later.
- 1985 La Jolla production: James Lapine, who co-wrote multiple musicals with Sondheim, directed this production starring Chip Zien, Marin Mazzie, and John Rubinstein. Sondheim added in the song "Growing Up" for this production, and it's now one of the show's best-known tunes.
- 1994 Off-Broadway premiere: Susan H. Schulman's production of Merrily went up with York Theatre Company. She streamlined the show's plot into the version that's most widely used today.
- 2002 reunion concert: The original Merrily Broadway cast reunited for one night only to perform a concert version of the show. Sondheim and Prince also attended.
- 2012 London revival: Actress/director Maria Friedman first staged Merrily We Roll Along in 2012 at London's Menier Chocolate Factory. Her production later transferred to the West End and is the basis for this year's New York staging.
- 2012 Encores! production: New York City Center's Encores! program, which presents limited runs of seldom revived musicals, included Merrily We Roll Along in its 2012 season. Colin Donnell, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Celia Keenan-Bolger starred.
- 2022 Off-Broadway revival: Friedman took her celebrated Merrily production stateside, bringing it to New York Theatre Workshop at the end of 2022. The show received instant buzz for its trio of stars — Daniel Radcliffe, Lindsay Mendez, and Jonathan Groff — and critical acclaim to boot.
- 2023 Broadway revival: Friedman's production, with Radcliffe, Groff, and Mendez in tow, is the first Broadway revival of Merrily We Roll Along. The show plays the Hudson Theatre for 18 weeks only.
Fun facts about Merrily We Roll Along
Be even more prepared to roll up to this production with these additional fun facts about Merrily We Roll Along.
- The characters in the original Merrily We Roll Along play had different names. Richard Niles became Frank, Jonathan Crale became Charley, and Julia Glenn became Mary. Their jobs also changed: Richard was a playwright, Jonathan a painter, and Mary an author.
- Sondheim, Furth, and Merrily's original director, Hal Prince, also all worked together on the Broadway premiere of Company.
- Director Maria Friedman played Mary in a 1992 London production of Merrily before going on to stage the musical herself.
How to get Merrily We Roll Along tickets
Merrily We Roll Along doesn't roll along often. Don't miss this rare chance to see this Sondheim classic – and to see Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe, and Lindsay Mendez sharing the Broadway stage. Their characters' friendship might worsen with time, but Merrily We Roll Along has only gotten better.
Get Merrily We Roll Along tickets now.
Photo credit: Merrily We Roll Along at New York Theatre Workshop. (Photos by Joan Marcus)
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