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Even Jonathan Groff Had To Win Over Audiences: How ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ Went From Sondheim Also-Ran To Runaway Smash – Deadline Q&A

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Director Maria Friedman’s staging of Merrily We Roll Along, both on Broadway and its previous run Off Broadway, just might be the most unexpected success in the long, glorious career of composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

Long considered all but unstageable, with its hard-to-crack reverse chronology and characters whose flaws are front and center at the start of the show only to soften by the end – again, a reversal of what we’re used to – Merrily We Roll Along rewinds the lives of three show business friends from their sadly splintered end to their heartbreakingly optimistic youth.

In other words, a sad ending is inevitable, a happy beginning bittersweet. And yet the revival has become one of the Broadway season’s biggest no-doubt-about-it hits, garnering seven Tony Award nominations, and is so popular that in March, six months after its first preview, producers announced that Merrily had recouped its $12 million capitalization, a rarity on Broadway.

Of course, it hasn’t hurt the production that those three lead actors are some of the most likable, even beloved young stars of stage and screen, with individual built-in fan bases that might have gotten the show to sell-out status even if the critical reviews hadn’t been universal raves.

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