Ever sit and wonder how the heck you got to where you are today? How did all the little twists and turns of friendships, romances, jealousies, commitments and maybe a betrayal or two lead you down the path that has become your ‘today’? That’s what central character, Frank Shepard, contemplates in the opening scene of The Chance Theater’s production of Merrily We Roll Along. “[The musical] is about friendships, relationships, hopes and dreams, the effect time has on them, and what happens when they’re not tended to,” explains Oanh Nguyen, Chance Theater Artistic Director.
My guess is most of you aren’t familiar with Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, but I bet you’d recognize one of its most famous songs, Not a Day Goes By. Not ringing a bell? Well, since I don’t have a clip of Chance’s performance, feel free to click on over to youtube and listen to Bernadette Peters’ heart wrenching performance.
Wasn’t that something? Guess what. Liz Holt’s portrayal of Beth was just as poignant, as she performed this hauntingly beautiful song with a velvety voice and impressive acting chops. Some people are good singers, others are good actors. Holt is both. I hope we see her in more OC shows.
Liz wasn’t the only strong performer. Amy Bjorklund’s Mary Flynn was as complex a characterization I’ve ever seen in a musical. So glad I got to see her up close to witness her intricate nuances. Ryland Dodge as Charley was so likeable you just want to put him in your pocket and take him home. Jeremy Fillinger gave Frank Shepard just enough sensitivity so that the audience doesn’t despise him as he mangles every relationship he has. The ensemble was top notch, with Alex Bueno leading the charge with great comedic timing.
The set design was stark, dark and slightly resembled a jail cell with all its dark grey and black vertical lines, perhaps symbolizing how Frank’s choices throughout his adult life created a psychological prison of despair as he contemplated how he lost everyone who was important to him.
Merrily We Roll Along is not your average musical. It’s got bite and bark. It’s meaty instead of saccharine. Director, Nguyen, serves this musical feast in such appetizing doses that one relishes each bite and still wants more. Long after you’ve left the theater, you realize you’ve consumed these characters’ life stories. You’re satiated and ready to take on your own life with that addictive score playing on repeat in your head.
My only regret is that I didn’t see the show sooner so I could get people to go see it. If you’ve never been to the Chance Theater in Anaheim Hills, you don’t know what you’re missing. Save your pennies for a babysitter and set up a date night. You can thank me later.
Share and Enjoy