LP0221. MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG (Stephen Soundheim), Original 1981 Broadway Cast, w.Jason Alexander, Jim Walton, Ann Morrison, Lonny Price, Terry Finn, Sally Klein. RCA stereo CBL1-4197, w.Elaborate Libretto-Brochure.
“American musical comedy may be an ailing art form, but it is certainly far from dead, judging from the excellent original cast album of Stephen Sondheim's MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG (RCA Red Seal CBL1-4197). With its plethora of brash show tunes, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG is Mr. Sondheim's most conventional score since A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
Adapted from the 1930's play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the story, told backward, sketches the biography of Franklin Shepard, a fictional songwriter-entrepreneur, from 1980's Hollywood to his high school graduation in 1955. The characters, who are in their 40's as the show opens, are played throughout by actors who are barely 20.
Telling the story backward is not merely a gimmick, as some have suggested, to prop up yet another Sondheim saga of disaffected sophisticates. By taking us backward, instead of forward, Mr. Sondheim suggests that underneath all the trappings of success, the pure idealist in us is always there, waiting to be uncovered. Nobody, after all, begins life cynical and money-grubbing. One of the reasons that modern musical comedy has lost its artistic footing, Mr. Sondheim implies, is that it has become too concerned with show business razzmatazz and not enough with music of real quality.
If MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG ultimately doesn't rank alongside Mr. Sondheim's musical masterworks, SWEENEY TODD and A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, in its moral seriousness, it stands head and shoulders above the glitzy, saccharine pageants that pass for musicals these days.”
- STEPHEN HOLDEN, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 April, 1982