A starry revival of “Merrily We Roll Along,” one of musical theater’s most beloved flops, will transfer to Broadway next fall, hoping to right the show’s oxymoronic reputation once and for all.
The production, now midway through a sold-out run at Off Broadway’s small-scale New York Theater Workshop in the East Village, stars Daniel Radcliffe (yes, of “Harry Potter” fame) alongside two popular musical theater performers: Jonathan Groff (a Tony nominee for “Spring Awakening” and “Hamilton”) and Lindsay Mendez (a Tony winner for “Carousel”). All three will lead the Broadway cast, according to an announcement Friday; the production’s dates and the theater at which it will be staged were not specified.
“Merrily,” with a much-loved score by Stephen Sondheim and an oft-bashed book by George Furth, holds a special place in musical theater lore: The original production, in 1981, was a fiasco so storied — it closed two weeks after opening — that it spawned an excellent documentary, “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened.”
The show depicts, in reverse chronological order, the fracturing of a three-way friendship between a composer, a playwright and a novelist who meet in their early 20s. The musical is based on a 1934 play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.
In the decades since the Broadway closing, the show has been revived and reimagined over and over and over again — Richard Linklater is now spending 20 years trying to film a version starring Ben Platt, Beanie Feldstein and Blake Jenner.
This latest revival, which will be the first to reach Broadway since the original, is directed by Maria Friedman, a British actress who once starred in a “Merrily” run in England, and who has been developing her production for a decade, starting at Menier Chocolate Factory in London, followed by London’s West End (where it won the Olivier Award for best musical revival) and Huntington Theater Company in Boston.
Jesse Green, the chief theater critic for The New York Times and a longtime “Merrily” observer, praised the revival’s current Off Broadway production, writing “it is perhaps for the first time perfectly cast,” and concluding, “Maybe, finally, it’s a hit.” In The Washington Post, the critic Peter Marks called it “intoxicating” and “revelatory.”
The lead producer of the revival will be Sonia Friedman — a prolific and powerful London-based producer who is also the sister of Maria Friedman. The producing team includes Sondheim’s widower, Jeff Romley, as well as David Babani, who is the artistic director of Menier Chocolate Factory, and Patrick Catullo.