first night

Merrily We Roll Along

Allegra Dowley rolls along to DULOG's latest offering


‘Merrily We Roll Along’ focuses on the life of Franklin Shepard (Simon Lynch), a successful and influential song- writer and film producer. The musical takes the audience back through the milestones in his life that led to his success, and the sacrifices made in order to get there. Given that the cast only had 2 weeks to rehearse before opening night, they did spectacularly well to pull- off such a difficult feat, creating a moving and somewhat poignant piece of theatre.

I was impressed by the minimalistic set, which allowed for an easy transition between time and place. The set changes, carried out by members of the cast, were smooth and almost unnoticeable. Clearly a lot of thought had gone into the sourcing of props by the producers (Erica Powell and Liz Schofield), matched by a fantastic array of costumes, which gave the show a truly vibrant 60s feel.

This reverse chronology of the storyline poses the potential for confusion; however, this was dealt with wonderfully well by the cast, in particular the chorus, to create a clear and convincing piece of theatre. This was cleverly aided by text projected at intervals above the stage.

Although there were one or two very weak cast members, who looked bored and distracted, there were several standout performances. Highlights included the performance of Isabelle Horler who provided an incredibly touching portrayal of Beth Spencer, conveying an impressive depth of emotion in her solo ‘Not a Day Goes By.’ Likewise, Lucy Rowlanes gave a stellar performance as ‘Gussie Carnegie’ displaying her incredibly powerful voice whilst epitomising a shallow, ruthless and self- interested Broadway star. Jordan Carlton who played Charley Kringas should also be commended for his solo ‘Franklin Shepard Inc.’ which provided some much needed comedy, coupled with Sarah Slimani’s assured, confident and amusing portrayal of K.T.

 The real star of the show, however, was Jess Christy playing ‘Mary.’ She gave the most consistent performance and reassured the audience as she led the occasionally unsure cast through the scenes. The most enjoyable scenes came when Christy, Carlton and Lynch were together on stage, demonstrating great chemistry and a wonderful gelling of voices, particularly in their rendition of ‘Old Friends.’

Unfortunately, these performances were often undermined by some truly terrible sound effects as well as moments of extreme discord with the band. There were times that it was so disjointed as to become cringe- worthy, and members of the cast often had to visibly lead the conductor. This led to the numbers involving the whole cast feeling a tad uncomfortable, as some cast members were clearly unsure of their words and timings. However, this can be partially explained by last minute difficulties faced by the show, which necessitated the finding of a new Musical Director just days before opening night.

The company had an incredibly difficult job in attempting to pull this show off in such a limited period of time and undoubtedly the majority of issues could have been easily solved through more practice with the band. However, the show remained a truly touching exploration of friendship and love, thus the cast should be proud of their efforts.

20 June 2014

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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