MERRILY-- A naysayer's review
Last Edit: Zelgo 11:36 am EST 02/07/24
Posted by: Zelgo 11:31 am EST 02/07/24

I finally saw MERRILY, and unfortunately, the current production doesn't make a solid case that this show should appear any more often than the oh-remember-this? revival every 20 years or so. Although the music remains wonderful (including the orchestrations!), what keeps it second tier Sondheim is the clunker of the book surrounding it. The book can't be improved. The entire idea seems DOA.

The backwards plot is a gimmick--we don't see much character development nor gain any empathy for the characters because we first see them at their worst. Some have suggested that a version be produced where the plot plays out in the standard sequence. That would reveal how hackneyed the plot really is: Talented kids with hopes and dreams sell out and, ultimately, hate each other. We see that play out with most rock bands.

Jonathan Groff is miscast and is the biggest disappointment here. After having seen him in theatre and on TV, I am finally admitting that he suffers from "Cheyenne Jackson Syndrome": handsome, has a passable singing voice with limited emotional range, and, worst of all, despite his looks, holds no charisma whatsoever. We're supposed to believe women throw themselves at him and that he's making big Hollywood deals? In comparison, the diminutive Daniel Radcliffe exudes charisma left and right!

Lindsay Mendez was out (Honest question--should someone most haven't seen in the role be eligible for a Tony nomination?). A few other background characters were out also, as was announced at the start of show. I believe this is what led to some odd pacing in the first act. Without famous actors attached, I doubt this (or any version of it) would have such long run.

In the end, I left with the feeling that, although I already knew the songs, seeing them in the context of the show diminishes them somehow. I've seen a few different versions of Merrily and always seem to forget that I saw them. I assume this production will be forgotten too.
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