It's a hit! Runyonland Productions' Epic Take on Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along

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If you want to take a journey from joy to sorrow, and end with a familiar feeling of being melancholy, you would have been entirely at home at a recent production of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, by Ann Arbor’s Runyonland Productions. With an outstanding cast that drew us in and never let us go, it's hard to believe that this was a college production and not a Broadway tour. 

The talent in this production was stunning, a true treasure of a cast. Really, we cannot wait to see what they come up with next, and what else they can amaze us with.

t's a hit! Runyonland Productions' Epic Take on Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along

About the musical:

It's not about the tragic life of Franklin Shepherd, who thought he was pursuing the life he wanted. It's not about the loss of a true working partnership, which is what Charley wanted. And it's not about a lifetime of never being more than a friend to the man you love, which is Mary’s story. It's about the true essence of friendship,  through difficulties, and how we can still connect. 

t's a hit! Runyonland Productions' Epic Take on Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along

About the cast: 

With an extremely talented ensemble cast, the stage was packed with talent. We had a chance to interview the three leads; click here to read our full interviews!

Of particular note was Erica Ito as Mary, who provided a stunning take on a familiar character. She really did the character justice, and shone through with both acting and stage presence. She had great control over her voice, which definitely brought out emotion through the songs. Seeing her onstage was a highlight of the show.

In our interview with her, she said, "Being in a musical that's rarely produced gives you a chance to be even more present and invested in the work. Sometimes when you're in a production, you rush to get through rehearsals to the best of your ability, with the idea that this is a role you may have played before or may play again. But when you're doing a "rare" musical, you feel as though you've only got one shot at telling this story, so you gotta make it count. As a longtime Merrily fangirl, I'm also very excited to be meeting the original Mary Flynn, Ann Morrison. It's pretty scary to know you're going to be performing for the woman who literally created your role. I feel very lucky."

Liam Allen as Frank: Wow. Frank is the center of everything—the highs and lows, tears and laughs. Frank goes through life, only to ask if he did it right. Liam was able to show us how life isn’t always good or ba... just with his voice, and how he felt about it with his wonderful acting. It was a true pleasure to see him on stage.

In our interview with him, he said, "Sondheim's music and lyrics can be very challenging, but I've done multiple Sondheim pieces before and never had a struggle I couldn't overcome. When it comes down to it, I feel whether or not a particular musical is challenging comes down to the individual performer's connection TO it, and not as much notes and rhythms..."

Leanne Antonio as Gussie: “Holy mackerel,” said the man behind us. We concur. She had a beautiful range and tone. We couldn't help but perk up, whenever she was onstage, her performance was so beautiful. Not only a convincing actress, she pulled off possibly the most changing character throughout the musical seamlessly.

t's a hit! Runyonland Productions' Epic Take on Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along

Producer Thomas Laub, who provided the voice of Charley, due to laryngitis:
It is amazing that the producer could step in and say and sing everything so incredibly. While running Runyonland Productions (and pursuing his degree at the University of Michigan), Thomas is both everywhere and entirely present. We foresee a very bright future for this visionary, and will be avidly following his career.

Wilson Plonk as Charley: Despite being sick, he did a good job, especially during the song, Franklin Shepherd, Inc., which showed his range of acting.  

In our interview with him, he said, "Sondheim's rhythms in Merrily We Roll Along are known for being particularly difficult. My character has a huge patter song in Act 1 called "Franklin Shepard Inc." that is just devilishly complicated, both rhythmically and lyrically. It's going to be a giant undertaking for me, especially with a full orchestra on stage, but I can't wait to take it on. The wonderful thing about Sondheim is that the acting is all fueled through the music. With lyrics as brilliant as those in Merrily, acting becomes easy if you just pay attention to what you're saying."

Emilie Kouatchou as Beth: she had a very strong operatic voice, which was truly amazing in the song, Bobbie and Jackie and Jack. With passion in her eyes, she played the protective mother perfectly. The character’s morals were worn on her sleeve.

About the Set:

Simple, yet effective. Beautiful lights hung from the top of the stage, giving you a small amount of comfort, even in the most heartbreaking of times. There were swift changes from the ensemble cast to create different places, which reminded us that not only was the stage a stunner, but clever, too.

About the Orchestra:

Under music director Brian Rose and conductor Tyler Driskill, the 12 piece orchestra astounded us with such an amazing group of talent. Every interlude was a true joy, and their love for music showed in each song.

Aftershow:

We were happy to attend a post-show celebration, which included two original cast members from Merrily, Ann Morrison and Mary Edwards. Life is good!

t's a hit! Runyonland Productions' Epic Take on Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along

What can I say? This extraordinary production, which lasted only 3 nights, was truly a highlight in our theatre-loving lives. The talent of everyone involved was impressive. We’re saving the program, so that we remember who to look out for on Broadway. 

t's a hit! Runyonland Productions' Epic Take on Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along

 

 

 

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