New York: Merrily We Roll Along reviews starring Daniel Radcliffe

A New York reviews round-up of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along starring Daniel Radcliffe.

Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s 1981 musical Merrily We Roll Along is revived at New York Theatre Workshop directed by Maria Friedman.

Radcliffe, who made his Broadway debut in the 2011 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really, plays Charley in the show, alongside Jonathan Groff as Franklin and Lindsay Mendez as Mary. 

Merrily We Roll Along at the New York Theatre Workshop. Photo by Joan Marcus

Based on the original play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, Merrily We Roll Along features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by George Furth.

Joining Friedman on the creative team is choreographer Tim Jackson, set and costume designer Soutra Gilmour, lighting designer Amith Chandrashaker, sound designer Kai Harada, orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, and music direction by Alvin Hough Jr.

To say the show is an unbridled hit, and that the New York critics loved it, is AN UNDERSTATEMENT!

Check out the reviews below, from the Guardian, Telegraph, Stage, New York Times and more.


The Guardian
★★★★

"Sondheim flop finds new lease of life"

"The infamous 1981 disaster has returned off-Broadway with help from Jonathan Groff and Daniel Radcliffe"

"It’s doubtful that anyone will get it righter than director Maria Friedman. A former actor and a sensitive and lucid interpreter of Sondheim’s work, she lends clarity and humanity to the revival of Merrily now playing at New York Theatre Workshop. Informed by her 2012 Menier Chocolate Factory production, this version stars Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez as a trio of friends disillusioned after two decades amid the gutters and stars of Hollywood and Broadway. Friedman’s interpretation will probably be regarded as a gold standard. But even here, despite that indelible sour-sweet score, the gold is short a few carats. Some choices, it would seem, can’t be unmade, no matter how acute our hindsight."

"If Radcliffe’s voice is not extraordinary, his particular energy is, and he brings a manic liveliness to Charlie, which slants toward something darker and less stable in the song Franklin Shepard, Inc. Mendez has heart and range and a rich, robust timbre. She lacks the absolute control for Mary’s breakdown, but she is engaging in the early scenes when Mary’s hope still outweighs her despair. Reg Rogers is typically exuberant as Joe, a Broadway producer, and Krystal Joy Brown has glamour and malice as his wife."

Alexis Soloski, The Guardian
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The Telegraph
★★★★

"Daniel Radcliffe works musical magic in this inspired rescue of Sondheim’s infamous flop"

"Maria Friedman's acclaimed London revival of Merrily We Roll Along transfers to New York. Might Broadway beckon?"

"It’s taken a decade for director Maria Friedman’s lauded London revival of Stephen Sondheim’s infamous Broadway flop Merrily We Roll Along to hit New York – but it’s definitely been worth the wait. Like the Olivier Award-winning production that originated at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2012, the current incarnation, playing Off Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop, is a stellar, musically sumptuous affair featuring a captivating score by the late composer-lyricist. And this time the cast includes Daniel Radcliffe, who delivers a winning and wittily engaging turn as one of a trio of American friends whose bonds break down over 20 years."

"Having already done How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway in 2011, he [Radcliffe] fits in well with these lesser-known but more seasoned musical theatre performers: Mendez, who turns her underwritten character into the show’s emotional centre, and Groff, who finds the midlife disenchantment in a potentially unlikable lead character. High points come in the buoyant songs all three sing, especially the optimistic finale, “Our Time”, when they’re together for the first time watching Sputnik in orbit."

Diane Snyder, The Telegraph
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The New York Times

"‘Merrily We Roll Along’ Returns, the Way It Never Was"

"Maria Friedman’s rethinking of the much-loved, much-monkeyed-with 1981 Sondheim-Furth flop gets very close to coherence, and all the way to enjoyable."

"Maria Friedman’s staging brings the intelligence of the songs fully alive and justifies the baroque construction. Her framing snaps the picture almost fully into focus. And with Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez as the show’s central trio of backward-tumbling friends, it is perhaps for the first time perfectly cast."

"This is going to be the story of a brilliant young man who, failing to grow up, inevitably punches down. Happily, Groff has the glamour and fury to shoulder that interpretation. No Frank I’ve seen has been so unapologetic in his solipsism, so sure he deserves a get-out-of-jail-free card to life’s every complication."

"Musicals are mysterious. Even the best are games of Whac-a-Mole: Fix one problem and another pops up. It’s therefore no small thing to say that in her effort to drag a half-living thing like “Merrily” to full life, Friedman is more than halfway there. Maybe, finally, it’s a hit."

Jesse Green, The New York Times
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The Hollywood Reporter

"Daniel Radcliffe and Jonathan Groff Lead a Buoyant Revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Flawed Jewel"

"Tony winner Lindsay Mendez rounds out the central trio in Maria Friedman’s heartfelt production, which is strongly tipped to move to Broadway"

"It’s directed with great affection for the material — if not always with equal finesse — by Maria Friedman, whose history with the show dates back to playing female lead Mary in the U.K. in 1992. But the real selling point here is the wonderful principal cast, with three leads who could scarcely be better."

"Franklin has always been an off-putting key character for a musical, a self-serving sellout whose personal loyalty seems easily disregarded. Casting the infinitely likeable Jonathan Groff allows us to see the regret in his choices and the yearning for the young dreamer he once was."

"Daniel Radcliffe had charm and energy in his 2011 New York musical theater debut, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. But as Charley, he digs deeper, tracing the road from an open-hearted young man eager to change the world to a tetchy neurotic, his resentment steeped in sorrow. Conversely, he also gets to show off his physical comedy skills in some delightful, understatedly goofy moments."

"The three leads alone will be cause for rejoicing among the Sondheim faithful, while newcomers to this flawed but beautiful musical might be left scratching their heads over its commercial failure."

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
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TimeOut
★★★★

"Merrily We Roll Along is the femme fatale of Stephen Sondheim musicals, beautiful and troubled; people keep thinking they can fix it, rescue it, save it from itself and make it their own... But director Maria Friedman’s revival at New York Theatre Workshop does a superb job—the best I’ve ever seen—of overlooking them, the way one might forgive the foibles of an old friend."

"That’s one reason Friedman’s version works so well: She has trained her eye on just the right stars. Groff, Radcliffe and Mendez are so appealing as performers that they moot the pinched negativity of their characters’ first appearances. All three deliver exceptional work."

"Friedman’s production meets the audience halfway, and a Broadway audience today just might be able to make up the difference as it couldn’t in 1981. Cross your fingers: It might finally be Merrily’s time."

Adam Feldman , TimeOut
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New York Post

"Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez triumph"

"The late composer Stephen Sondheim’s biggest career flop has turned out to be one of the best musicals of the theater season — a mere 41 years after it first premiered."

"When Groff, who is sensational playing a famous composer named Franklin Shepard, stares out at the audience in this staging’s final image, he’s back again in middle age with his life in tatters. At that moment, you really believe that he’s changed and that these three formerly inseparable New York pals can make it work; that our experience watching the show has been Frank’s own all-important lightbulb moment. An infamously unfulfilling show suddenly satisfies."

"Mendez is exquisite in the part from the offset. A less skilled actress warps older, alcoholic Mary into a crone a la the Witch from “Into the Woods.” Mendez is totally genuine and, as a result, devastating."

"Has “Merrily” finally been fixed? Not really, and it never will be. But its storied problems have not only become part of its lore, but also a messy asset in our dismal era of mechanical, assembly-line musicals produced by movie studios. “Merrily” is an affecting oddball that hits you hard emotionally, even when it creatively misses. Here’s to it. What’s like it? Damn few."

Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post
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The Stage
★★★★

"Piercing"

"Starry cast excels in this moving and incisive production of Sondheim’s time-travelling musical"

"Friedman’s production sparkles with high notes of joy and playfulness, juxtaposed against the devastating lows of betrayal."

"Tim Jackson’s choreography has wit, and the bold prints and changing hemlines of Soutra Gilmour’s costumes neatly reinforce the sense of shifting period setting. Amith Chandrashaker’s lighting, with its frequent use of follow-spots, brings emotional climaxes into sharp focus."

"Friedman’s production highlights the painful paradox that Frank’s misery is of his own making. But what hits even harder, thanks to the fine performances here, is how badly others are hurt in the process."

Nicole Serratore, The Stage
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The Washington Post

"With Radcliffe, Groff and Mendez, Sondheim’s ‘Merrily’ finds greatness"

"The off-Broadway production, directed by Maria Friedman, makes a smashing case for a Broadway transfer"

"They said it couldn’t be done. But they’ve done it. And not only merrily. Magnificently."

"That stalled course has finally been corrected, courtesy of the intoxicating revival engineered by director Maria Friedman at the New York Theatre Workshop, the East Village birthplace of “Rent.” This latest blessed event, which had its official opening off-Broadway Monday night, bears the earmarks of a historic reconsideration, one that will have Sondheim freaks whispering to themselves: “Remind me why I thought this show didn’t work?”"

"And no small part of the success is due to the three central performances, by Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez."

Peter Marks, The Washington Post
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The Wrap

"Jonathan Groff and Daniel Radcliffe Try to Resuscitate a Sondheim Flop"

"Director Sonia Friedman brings an actorly touch to Stephen Sondheim’s problematic 1981 musical, to mostly good effect"

"Maria Friedman, a British actress and Sondheim veteran, brings an actorly touch to the material in her professional directorial debut, which first played in London a decade ago and opened Monday at Off Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop in a starry production led by Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez. That cast is one of the primary appeals of this revival, helping to soften the story’s central trio of striving and often unlikable creatives."

"Friedman works hard to blur the weaknesses of Sondheim’s biggest misfire, and she mostly succeeds in delivering a psychologically coherent study of how youthful aspirations and good intentions can evolve over time into something less rosy but no less real. Still, even a perfect version of this material is unlikely to win over casual theater fans. “Merrily” is a show that is more likely to be admired than fully embraced."

Thom Geier, The Wrap
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The Daily Beast

"A Slice of Stunning Sondheim, Starring Daniel Radcliffe"

"In a gorgeous production of “Merrily We Roll Along,” Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff, and the excellent Lindsay Mendez star as the trio of friends charting their lives in reverse."

"This is a wonderful production to see if you can (although tickets are reportedly sold out)..."

"This Merrily finds Jonathan Groff in a career-shining role as Franklin Shepard, the rich, famous songwriter and film producer, and Lindsay Mendez, the standout of the show, as Mary Flynn, the drink-guzzling truth-teller of the group..."

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast
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📷 Main photo: Merrily We Roll Along - at the New York Theatre Workshop. Photo by Joan Marcus

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