Show History



Judy Prince, wife of the original director, Harold Prince, had been "nagging" him to do a musical about teenagers, when he recalled Merrily We Roll Along, the 1934 play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, upon which the now likewise-titled musical is based.

The musical's writers retained the basic structure and overall theme of the play but updated it to encompass the period from 1957 to 1976. Sondheim said that, since the play was about friendships, he wrote the songs to be interconnected.

The story revolves around Franklin Shepard who, having once been a talented composer of Broadway musicals, has now abandoned his friends and his songwriting career to become a producer of Hollywood flicks. Like the play, the musical begins at the height of his Hollywood fame and moves backwards in time, showing snapshots of the most important moments in Frank's life that shaped the man that he is today. The musical utilizes a chorus that sings reprises of the title song to transition the scenes.


Merrily We Roll Along, based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, is a musical with a book by George Furth and lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim. Directed by Harold Prince, with choreography by Larry Fuller, the show began previews on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on October 8, 1981, before officially opening on November 16, 1981. The musical ran for 44 previews and 16 performances.

In 1985, Sondheim's new collaborator, James Lapine, mounted a revised version at the La Jolla playhouse in California, and Furth and Sondheim were again inspired to make the show work. This was followed by a mounting at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., directed by Douglas C. Wagner, which further affirmed the show's great potential. More productions – including one at Harvard University, personally overseen by Furth – continued to fine-tune the script.

Then in 1994, Merrily We Roll Along was revived Off-Broadway by The York Theatre Company, with Sondheim and Furth. The production, directed by Susan H. Schulman, was such a smash that it sold out and had to be extended. This streamlined version is the one licensed by MTI.

The show finally received its West End premiere at London's Donmar Warehouse on December 11, 2000, in a production directed by Michael Grandage. It was seen again in the West End, when Maria Friedman directed a revival of the musical at London's Menier Chocolate Factory, which opened on November 28, 2012, and transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End on May 1, 2013.