"Our Time: A Documentary About Growing Up" Will Chart Lives Of Original Merrily We Roll Along Cast
By Adam Hetrick
Emmy Award winner and Tony Award nominee Lonny Price, who originated the role of Charley Kringas in the 1981 Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical Merrily We Roll Along, is aligning with some old friends for a new documentary film born from their experiences in the Broadway production.
"OUR TIME: a documentary about growing up" will chart the journey of the original cast of Merrily We Roll Along in the 30 years since the musical debuted on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre, Price told Playbill.com.
Price was compelled to make the film during the 2002 original cast reunion concert of Merrily We Roll Along at LaGuardia High School.
"While I was on stage, it occurred to me that while I was singing 'Old Friends' to Jim Walton that we were old friends. We were no longer singing our characters' lives, we were singing our own lives," Price said. "It became very potent in a different way. The show is about dreams, idealism and friendship – what happens to your dreams as you get older, what happens to your friends as you get older. It seemed very much like that's what we were all going through, art reflecting life reflecting art. It's a kind of Pirandello experience. Steve Sondheim has graciously allowed us to use the score as we explore how the lives of the original Broadway cast have mirrored the experience of the characters in the show."
Price is currently raising funding to complete the film, which he has been working on over the past year with his collaborator Kitt Lavoie and film producer Lesli Klainberg. He has already shot interviews with Stephen Sondheim, Merrily director Harold Prince as well as original cast members Jason Alexander, Jim Walton, Abigail Pogrebin, Maryrose Wood, Forest D. Ray, David Cady and Terry Finn. It is Price's goal to include all of the original cast. He expects to complete work on the project in the coming year.
"It's been a very moving experience," Price said. "Being in the show was mindblowing for all of us and for different reasons, it really is, 'How did you get here from there, Mr. Shephard?' That's really what the film is about. What happened to all of us who met at that very critical time in our lives, when we were all from ages 15 to 25, really. What's happened in the 30 years to us since that moment. It's about growing up."
Price, who was 21 when he was cast in Merrily, said a common theme among the handful of cast members to participate thus far, was the idea of originating a role in a Harold Prince-Stephen Sondheim musical. "It just blew everyone away. It was so out of the realm of possibility. It was so beyond fantasy. Everybody just was staggered by it – blindsided by it – that they would have this opportunity at the age of 15-25. Everybody really understood the importance of who Hal and Steve were at the time and still are. It was an enormous honor to be in the room with them and to be treated like a professional as we worked with them. They were so wonderful to us and we learned so much from them. They set a standard for us."
Included in the documentary will be live, never-before-seen footage from the original 1981 production, which lasted only 16 regular Broadway performances and a prolonged 52-performance preview period. Additional footage of the original production of Merrily, shot by ABC television, and selections from the 2002 reunion concert will be incorporated.
Based on the 1934 George S. Kaufman-Moss Hart play of the same title, Merrily We Roll Along travels backwards in time to navigate the twists and turns of a group of close friends from the disenchantment of adulthood to the moment when they set out to take on the world in their early 20's.
The musical faced a troubled preview period and was not well received by critics. Sondheim and Furth subsequently returned to work on the musical, which was revised for a 1994 Off-Broadway production at the York Theatre. Merrily introduced such songs as "Not A Day Goes By," "Old Friends," "Good Thing Going," "Like It Was," "Now You Know" and "Our Time."
Merrily We Roll Along is receiving two major productions this season. City Center Encores! has enlisted Tony-winning director James Lapine to stage the upcoming Feb. 8-19 concert presentations that will feature Lin-Manuel Miranda, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Colin Donnell.
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park will present the musical, under the direction of Tony Award winner John Doyle, with an actor-musician cast including Malcolm Gets, Daniel Jenkins and Becky Ann Baker.
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