I have to wonder (and I know I'm not alone in this) if there will ever be a perfect production of Merrily We Roll Along. Being the good Sondheim fan that I am, I have a pretty decent knowledge of the continuing metamorphosis of this problematic piece. I don't think - and never really have - that the "how did we get there from here" device of the show is the problem. It isn't difficult to follow, and, in fact, it sometimes enhances the experience when you get to the occasional "ah ha" moment that explains something you've already seen. The problem is, I think, that we start out with the pretty unlikable characters at their worst. Each major production that comes along chips away at both problems, and the current Roundabout/Fiasco Theater off-Broadway mounting does just that.
Technically, the show is aces with a wondrous unit set (by Derek McLane) full of theatricality - props, costumes and other Broadway ephemera span from floor to ceiling, suggesting a varied yet compartmentalized lifetime of memories. (The Alvin Theatre sign is a great touch, too.) Paloma Young does nice, appropriate work with the costumes, particularly in the way they all are quick changeable, and Christopher Akerlind's lighting manages to be simultaneously uber-theatrical and unobtrusive.
|(l to r) Ben Steinfeld, Paul L. Coffey, Brittany Bradford, Emily Young|
|(l to r) Ben Steinfeld, Manu Narayan, Jessie Austrian|
(Photos by J. Kyler, J. Marcus)