Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Merrily We Roll Along

If you had told me only a month ago that not only would I go to a musical theatre production, but would enjoy it so much that I would actually consider going again, I would have laughed in your face - but that's exactly what happened when I went to see Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along" the other week. My only previous experience with musical theatre was the execrable "Starlight Express", the nadir of Andrew Lloyd Webber's career, which understandably put me off for years, but I'm so glad I was persuaded to go and see this. "Merrily" is the story of successful movie producer Frank, who seemingly has everything but who hates his life because he's sacrificed his integrity and his friendships to get to the top. It starts at the end and moves backwards through time, revealing the decisions that have got him where he is today, ending at the beginning with him naive and full of enthusiasm. The result is almost unbearably poignant. Make no mistake, this is an absolutely superb work of proper grown-up adult entertainment. It's everything that musical theatre should be and so often, sadly, is not. There are no glib clichés, no trite nonsense, no green witches or singing lions - just a wonderfully well-conceived story with fantastic music that actually drives the plot along. It all feels heartbreakingly real, which I think is just about the highest compliment you can pay a musical. Two gigantic thumbs up.

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