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date: 08 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Revised drastically while in production in 1981, cast with actors aged sixteen to twenty-six, the tuneful, experimental musical Merrily We Roll Along, adapted from an unsuccessful play by Kaufman and Hart from 1934, closed after fifty-two previews and sixteen performances. Major revisions and fine-tunings made Merrily more accessible, but less avant-garde. Early revisions to the Faustian central character in the original opening scene (here examined via archival scripts, scores, and video) were not sufficient to solve the show’s dramaturgical conundrums, and the scene was reworked into a choral prologue. The latest version examined here is a well-cast 2002 revival archived on video. The tour de force (and largely unaltered) scena “Opening Doors,” the only song Sondheim has acknowledged as autobiographical, illuminates the complex, yet often hummable songs and ensembles that constitute Merrily’s enduring glories.

Keywords: flop, revival, revision, Merrily We Roll Along, Stephen Sondheim, George Furth, Harold Prince, Kaufman and Hart, autobiographical song, youthful casting

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