Musicals & Opera review: Merrily We Roll Along

Edinburgh Fringe Scotsman review: Merrily We Roll Along, at Greenside (Venue 231), review by Martin Gray

How did you get there from here? That’s the question this musical asks, as we follow friends Franklin, Mary and Charley through the decades, seeing if life lives up to their youthful dreams.

The trick is that the story is told backwards, beginning at a Hollywood party in 1976, with Hollywood producer Franklin Shepard a professional hit but a personal disaster, with his latest marriage on the skids and his friendships with Mary Flynn and Charley Kringus in tatters.

The show comes to a close in 1957, as long-time pals Franklin and Charley meet new neighbour Mary on a New York rooftop and realise that anything is possible. Along the way we have some of Stephen Sondheim’s most memorable songs and a witty script by George Furth.

The backwards device adds poignancy as we see characters who have fallen out of love, or lost a friendship, meet and connect for the first time. This two-hour show never lets up, meaning there is no time to worry about whether or not the cast look a little younger with every scene. The Exeter students mounting this production don’t, having concentrated on getting the performances and songs right.

And a splendid job they do, with Henry Adams, Rosie Archer and Andrew Horton perfectly cast as Franklin, Mary and Charley, selling the ups and downs of their friendship with aplomb. The guys are a composer and a lyricist, writing partners, while Mary is a novelist and critic with an unspoken love for Franklin. The trio’s rendition of Old Friends and Opening Doors are highlights, as is Horton’s Franklin Shepard Inc, a tongue twister of a number that must be a nightmare to learn.

Devon Cairns essays a heartbreaking Not a Day Goes By, while Charlotte Luxton’s The Blob is a fun satire on the in-crowd. The entire ensemble arrives for closing number Our Time, a beautiful song given poignancy because we know how things turn out for the fresh-faced kids.

There’s not a bum note or performance in the piece, with the cast and musicians working together to do the show justice. So roll along and see Merrily.

MORE INFO: Merrily We Roll Along, at Greenside, until 24 August. Today 10:10am

Originally appeared in The Scotsman

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