Merrily We Roll Along

Original Broadway Production (1981)

Trivia & History

Despite what some sources say, previews started on Oct. 8, 1981, not Oct. 1, 1981. For confirmation, see this contemporaneous article from the New York TimesThe opening was originally scheduled for November 1. This was first postponed to November 9, then to November 16.

Jim Walton replaced James Weissenbach in the leading role of Franklin Shepard on Oct. 19. At that time, Walton was replaced in his original role of Jerome by David Cady, who was the understudy for Franklin Shepard all along. Walton was never listed as the understudy for Franklin Shepard.

The character of older Frank was added to the show late in previews. If a contemporaneous article in the New York Times is to be trusted, the first performance with the character was on Tuesday, Nov. 3. (The article reads a bit ambiguously and could be seen as meaning that the character was added to the show on Nov. 10, but the character was definitely in the show by Nov. 7.)

Except for the addition of the Overture and the Entr'acte, not listed in the playbill, the song list on this page reflects the opening night playbill, including the lack of a listing for Mary and Charley's "Old Friends" preceding "Like It Was," no mention of Girl Auditioning in "Opening Doors," and the lack of any identification of reprises. The title-song transition between the Polo Lounge scene ("LIke It Was") and the scene in Frank's apartment ("Old Friends") was not listed (probably because it was so brief).

  • There is some misinformation about this production in Stephen Sondheim's book Finishing the Hat. According to the book, "Darling!" was cut before rehearsals began, and the original versions of the title-song transitions and "Honey" were cut before previews began. In fact, "Darling!" was in the show for several previews (at least four) and "Honey" was in the show for at least three weeks of previews. Some of the original transitions were replaced quickly after previews started, but others stayed in the show for at least three weeks. We base these statements not exclusively on playbills (though they are consistent with the playbill song list for early previews), which can be deceptive about such matters, but on memories of audience members who saw the production repeatedly during previews and, more definitively, on the existence of recordings made during previews by audience members.
  • In addition, the book says that “Thank You for Coming” was replaced by "Bobby and Jackie and Jack,” giving the impression that "Thank You for Coming" never made it into performance. In fact, both songs were in the show in early previews, with "Bobby and Jackie and Jack" being followed by "Thank You for Coming."
  • It’s not clear from reading the book how “Honey” was performed in the show. It was performed in two sections, with “Not a Day Goes By” in the middle. The two songs were originally sung in the dressing room with Beth and Frank alone in the room. (By the time the production opened, “Not a Day Goes By” was sung in front of the wedding guests.)

During previews, a long dance sequence was added to "Now You Know." This was never in the published piano-vocal score. There was never any credit in the playbill for dance-music arrangements so it's not known who put together the music for the sequence. Edward Strauss and Tom Fay were credited as the rehearsal pianists, and it may be that the arrangement was by one of them.

Some have suggested that the show did not run 16 performances, but only 14 or 15. This incorrect idea may have come about because the show played an unusual schedule during its second and final week of post-opening performances, which was also Thanksgiving week. The show played no Wednesday matinee that week, although it did play a Wednesday evening performance. It also played a performance on Thanksgiving evening. It then played a special 3 p.m. matinee on Friday, as well as the usual Friday evening, and two performances, as usual, on Saturday (the last day of the run).

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