Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Stone Bridge High School Merrily We Roll Along

By • Apr 21st, 2010 • Category: Cappies

The year is 1976. Frank Shepard, a famous movie producer, has just premiered another hit film. He has a beautiful home, glamorous friends, a gorgeous wife … and an even more gorgeous girlfriend. But at Stone Bridge High School’s recent production of Merrily We Roll Along, the audience learned that success isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Inspired by a 1934 play by George Kaufman and Moss Hart, Merrily We Roll Along premiered on Broadway in 1981. Although the musical won several awards, it closed after only sixteen performances. Written by George Furth and Stephen Sondheim (whose illustrious career spans five decades, eight Tony Awards, and dozens of productions), the musical moves backward through the life of composer Frank Shepard (Jason Francis). Frank is first introduced as an aging producer whose materialistic outlook on life has cost him his friends and family. But as we travel backward through the decades, we begin to meet the real Frank — the naive dreamer who sacrificed what he loved the most for a taste of success.

As if playing a lead in a Sondheim musical was not hard enough, Jason Francis was given the additional challenge of playing this role in a show that runs backward! Still, he rose to the challenge with aplomb. He portrayed Frank sincerely, creating honest relationships with his fellow actors.

Ryan Bardenett stole the show as Charley, Frank’s best friend and lyricist. His animated facial expressions and larger-than-life physicals were never more effective than during the hilarious “Franklin Shepard, Inc.” He was joined by Roopali Kulkarni as Frank’s long time friend Mary, whose unrequited love eventually leads to bitterness. Kulkarni’s portrayal of Mary was humorous yet appropriately sentimental, and her powerful voice contributed to her strong performance.

Despite the large size of the cast, ensemble numbers were energetic and cohesive. Choreography (Kaitlyn Palumbo and the Choreographic Team) was well-executed by both dancers and the ensemble. In addition, dancers and ensemble members helped move various set pieces throughout the production. Although the stage crew worked efficiently, transitions handled by members of the cast were much smoother and less noticeable. Several standout performers created memorable characters despite their modest roles. Particularly hilarious were Nick Barta and Kaitlyn Palumbo as persistently optimistic TV anchors, in spite of the horrific news they announced.

Creative lighting solutions — from handheld flashlights to dramatic spotlights — added visual interest to the production. A brightly lit cyclorama changed colors to fit the tone of the show. Some sound difficulties persisted throughout the performance, but actors compensated for uncooperative microphones by quickly raising their voices to be easily heard.

The year is 1957. Charley and Frank are young, broke, and idealistic. As they sit on the roof of their apartment building, they discuss the future. Much like the high school students portraying them, these characters know little of what the next years hold. But one thing is for certain. Life will keep rolling merrily along.

Elisabeth Bloxam of Westfield High School.

Robb Barwis, Jeannette Huggler, Jeff Davis, Sam Lade, Heather Reed, Lindsey Cochran, and Xabi Mugica Alex Gagliano, Spencer Joyce, Celia Lechtman, Harper Franklin
Robb Barwis, Jeannette Huggler, Jeff Davis, Sam Lade, Heather Reed, Lindsey Cochran, and Xabi Mugica
Alex Gagliano, Spencer Joyce, Celia Lechtman, Harper Franklin
Jason Francis, Roopali Kulkarni, Ryan Bardenett
Jason Francis, Roopali Kulkarni, Ryan Bardenett

Photos provided by Stone Bridge High School Photographers.

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