Lakeland Civic Theatre
Production runs through Feb 18th
Merrily We Roll Along is an understatement. It’s merrily we kick some ass. And for so many reasons, thank God there is a doctor in the house. In this case Director Dr. Martin Friedman. Under the precise and inspired direction, this production absolutely soars.
Merrily We Roll Along is a musical with a book by George first and lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim. It is based on the 1934 play at the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.. In theatrical circles, it is common knowledge that when this musical hit the boards on Broadway, the reviewers were not kind and after many delays the production closed after 16 performances.
Merrily We Roll Along follows the career of Franklin Shepard backwards in time, from successful movie producer to his humbler beginnings as an idealistic and youthful songwriter who, with his best friends Charley and Mary, sets out to shake up Broadway and ‘change the world.’ Frank writes the music, Charley writes the words, and Mary writes the stories. As the years go by, they each became very successful professionally, but drift apart as friends.
When you first come into the theater, you are taken in with the scrim that is eerily lit and shows many pieces of crumbled paper. And immediately it makes you wonder what those represent. Obviously if you are familiar with the musical, all it might be pages of a book, pages of the score, pages of song lyrics, or maybe letters that might be an attempt of sharing truths. And then, the orchestra begins to play.
Musical Director Jordan Cooper leads an amazing orchestra in this production. One of the finest that I have heard in quite a while in Cleveland. They immediately charge your batteries and jolts you into realizing that this is going to be a fierce production. The musical artists behind the scrim are incredible.
Trey Gilpin (Charley), Amiee Collier (Mary), and Eric Fancher (Frankin)
Leading this cast is Eric Fancher, who serves up a fascinating and intriguing Franklin Shepard. His voice is to die for, and the emotional journey is incredibly well-crafted. Especially, creating an arc that moves backwards. Handsome in stature, he provides a vulnerability that is palatable. When he begins Our Time
, his voice melts every stick of butter in a 10 mile radius. In this reviewer’s opinion quite arguably one of his best performances given in memory. Alongside Fancher is Trey Gilpin who totally delivers as Charlie Kringas. This is another performance that I thought was terrific and never ventured into a caricature, which could happen at times because there are some silly moments. But Gilpin displays incredible timing and immediate control, which pay off big time in the number “Franklin Shepard Inc.”
, which completely rocks. Rounding out the must see “ménage a trois” is Amiee Collier as Mary Flynn. Collier is firing on all’s cylinders. Her clarion voice is in full effect and her delivery, intention about painful and un-reciprocated love is an honor to watch it crafted so well.The second layer of fabulous to enhance this production comes from these four incredible performances. Danny Simpson as Joe Josephson is a hoot and also a pathetic soul that is perfectly played. His mustache definitely deserves a curtain call. Neely Gevaart provides a beautiful characterization, along with a remarkable voice to bring Beth Spencer to life. Her rendition of “Not A Day Goes By”
is a gift. Kelly Smith kick some major ass as Gussie Carnegie. Her voice, her style, acting style are on point. She is a whirlwind of self-promotion and a perfect example of self-preservation at the expense of others around her.
The rest of the company kick some major butt themselves as well. Anna Barrett, Kyle Burnett, Sarah Clare, Carlos Cruz, Frank Ivancic and Kate Michalski help propel this production to its successful conclusion. Each displaying major acting chops and transcendent voices, but I have to say that my favorite moment is Michalski as the interviewer. That double-take is comedic genius. Jake Spencer (Frank Jr.) does a great job of stealing the hearts of the audience with a solid voice and endearing presence.
Fancher, Gevaart (Beth), and Gilpin
Director Dr. Martin Friedman has put together a fantastic production. His knowledge and understanding of Sondheim is quite apparent, and lends itself to one of the finest productions I have seen at Lakeland. Musical Director Jordan Cooper establishes himself as being at the forefront of his craft, assembling an amazing troupe. Choreographer Jennifer Justice provides compact moves, and completely raucous detail, This becomes very apparent in the fantastic Bobby and Jackie and Jack. Insane choreography with brilliant execution. Scenic designer Austin Kilpatrick does an amazing job of a ethereal atmosphere, while lighting designer Adam Ditzel compliments the design with an effective range of emotions. Rooftop to Glitzy party rooms, all is good. Costume Designer Kelsey Tomlinson does a nice job, although it seems Mary could have had a few more outfits. Sound Designer Eric Simna serves up some great sound, and balances the fierce orchestra with the actors very well. Technical Director Craig Tucker pulls all of the elements together with a professional flair. Stage Manager Elizabeth Cammett calls a great show.
If you want to see a great production of this show, get yourself out to Lakeland. You will not be disappointed, unless you are always grumpy and judgmental.
Cleveland Stage Alliance
Production runs to February 18
$7-$15 General Admission(440) 525-7134
Lakeland Civic Theatre
7700 Clocktower Drive
Kirtland, OH 44094