Daniel Radcliffe to star in off-Broadway ‘Merrily’ revival

Daniel Radcliffe, center, and the cast of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” perform at the Tony Awards at the Beacon Theater in New York, June 12, 2011. (Photo: NYTimes)
Actor Daniel Radcliffe will star in an off-Broadway revival of “Merrily We Roll Along,” a Stephen Sondheim musical that famously flopped on Broadway but in the decades since has become an oft-produced and beloved show.اضافة اعلان

The new production, directed by Maria Friedman, is sure to be a tough ticket to get, given Radcliffe’s celebrity and the size of the venue: It is to be staged late this year by the nonprofit New York Theater Workshop at its 199-seat main stage in the East Village.

Sondheim, in an interview days before his death last November, said he was looking forward to the production. Friedman, a British musical theater star with a long history of performing in Sondheim musicals, first directed “Merrily” at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London in 2012; that production, hailed by The Guardian with a five-star review, transferred to London’s West End in 2013, and Friedman then directed a run at the Huntington Theater in Boston in 2017.

“Merrily” is an unusual show, written in reverse chronological order, about a trio of artists whose close friendship, and shared dreams, unravel over the years. The musical, featuring songs by Sondheim and a book by George Furth, ran on Broadway in 1981; it closed 12 days after opening. The abbreviated Broadway run was the subject of a well-received 2016 documentary film, “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened”; Richard Linklater is now spending 20 years making a film adaptation of the musical starring Ben Platt and Beanie Feldstein.

Ben Brantley, then the co-chief theater critic for The New York Times, called “Merrily” “the much-loved problem child of Sondheim’s musicals.” He saw Friedman’s production in London, where he called it “heart-clutching,” and in Boston, where he deemed it “transcendent.” The show, with an admired score and a critiqued book that builds toward a rooftop moment where the three main characters meet, has been repeatedly rethought; Jesse Green, the current Times chief theater critic, once described himself as “someone who’d gladly patronize a dedicated ‘Merrily’ repertory theater, perhaps on that rooftop, running nothing but reworked versions in perpetuity.”

New York Theater Workshop, best known as the birthplace of “Rent,” said Monday that its production of “Merrily” would run in “late 2022”; it did not announce dates. Radcliffe will play Charley Kringas, a lyricist and playwright; the theater did not announce other cast members.

Radcliffe, who vaulted to fame by portraying Harry Potter on film, has starred in several Broadway and off-Broadway plays; he also starred in a 2011 Broadway revival of the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

The “Merrily” production is the final show chosen by James C. Nicola, who has been the artistic director of New York Theater Workshop since 1988, and who is planning to step down in June. Nicola saw the original production on Broadway, and in the decades since, he said, the show “eerily, uncannily, has managed to entwine itself into my own life.”

“I had never before heard or read any work of art that seemed to understand me — in fact, all of us Boomers in that precise moment of our lives,” he said by email. “‘Merrily We Roll Along’ is once again magically finding its way into my life.”

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