re: BACK TO THE FUTURE and MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG
Last Edit: Chazwaza 12:20 am EDT 04/18/24
Posted by: Chazwaza 12:12 am EDT 04/18/24
In reply to: BACK TO THE FUTURE and MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG - fabjim50 08:52 pm EDT 04/17/24

I never heard that Mantello/Ives explanation about the lack of singing in act 2, which doesn't even follow reality since there is actually a fair amount of singing inside the room in act 2... just not nearly as much as you'd expect in a musical. But there certainly is WAY more than there'd ever be if it wasn't a musical. So what you're saying their explanation was doesn't even make sense to the actual show... I'm not sure why they felt the need to justify it anyway, everyone knows Sondheim died before it was finished. But it actually worked well for me the way it was, and I saw it twice. Yes I'd have loved more songs, and some parts of the show and characters absolutely were crying out for more musicalization, but in its own way I thought it was kind of perfect as it was. I do wish though that more could have been done, even maybe by one of his trusted friends/collaborators. Having the composer/lyricists he most admired contributing things to act 2 would have been a very cool way for his last musical to go out, of course with what he'd done, and the reprises that we did get, especially once they got out of the room. But again, I did love it as it was.

I also wanted to disagree with the comparison to Sweeney, I think that show makes it very clear that Sweeney would very much be singing Johanna while cutting throats. It's the first time he's had joy in years, or felt much of anything but anger and contempt. I think the slitting of throats is one of most musical things Sweeney Todd's story as a musical. But this is also the same show where instead of slitting Turpin's throat the second it's in front of him in his chair, as he's been dreaming and plotting to do for years, he savors the moment just too long, and sings and ode to pretty women WITH the Judge, a song certainly and mostly about Sweeney's wife (thought to be poisoned to madness and dead) and his innocent daughter taken prisoner by the Judge, who he's admitted to Sweeney he plans to marry. Pretty Women is the most improbable song of all, and yet makes perfect sense dramatically and emotionally and musically. God that show is a masterpiece.

I'm so glad you loved Merrily and see all its many strengths and brilliance.
(It's hard for me to take people praising this production so highly, given how much better I think the original version is, and how strongly I think this version/revival has benefited from decades of lore about the show mixed with decades of it being performed regularly all over (including 2 major revivals in NYC before this one), and no less than, what, at least 3 cast albums before this? ... I'm very confident that had the original version of the show just been trusted and licensed, and eventually returned to broadway in a new production with a great cast 40 years later, it would have found an audience finally used to it, ready for it, and responsive to what and why it is what it is and is trying to be, and craving it.
But we'll never know. I just hope the success of this production brings people to find the extraordinary original cast album and Lonny Price's documentary about the original.)
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