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‘Merrily We Roll Along’ Broadway Revival Recoups Investment, Redeeming One of Stephen Sondheim’s Most Embarrassing Commercial Failures

A star-studded revival of “Merrily We Roll Along” has managed to accomplish something that eluded the ill-fated original production of the Stephen Sondheim musical: Turn a profit.

The show’s producers announced that the new production, which will end its run on July 7, has recouped its $12 million capitalization. It’s not a shock, because armed with glowing reviews and a cast that includes Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame and “Glee’s” Jonathan Groff, as well as Tony Award winner Lindsay Mendez, “Merrily We Roll Along” has been a hot ticket since it opened in October. It is widely expected to be a juggernaut at the upcoming Tony Awards.

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That’s in sharp contrast to the frosty reception that greeted “Merrily We Roll Along” when it opened on Broadway in 1981. The show, which moves backward in time over the course of 20 years to chart the way three friends’ bonds are forged and frayed, was panned by critics. Sondheim later said he felt reviewers were looking to knock him down a peg after the success he and the show’s director Hal Prince had enjoyed with “Company” and “Sweeney Todd.” “We were mavericks who were not starving, that’s a crime,” he said.

The original Broadway production of “Merrily We Roll Along” flopped, closing after 16 performances and 44 previews. In contrast, the revival will have played 312 performances and 20 previews when it ends its run on Broadway. It could probably play indefinitely if the cast didn’t have such busy careers.

“Merrily We Roll Along” was directed by Maria Friedman, who has been praised for finding a way to deftly navigate the show’s idiosyncratic narrative structure while doing justice to musical numbers like “Old Friends” and “Franklin Shepard, Inc.”

The show features music and lyrics by Sondheim and a book by George Furth. It is based on an original play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the team behind “You Can’t Take It with You.” Sonia Friedman Productions, David Babani, Patrick Catullo and Jeff Romley were the lead producers on the revival.

The show broke several box office records at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre since the production began performances, grossing north of $2 million in one week, at one point in its run.  This production was originally produced at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2012 followed by a West End run. It was later produced at New York Theatre Workshop in 2022 before making the leap to Broadway.

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