By HARRY FISHER
“Merrily We Roll Along” is the latest show being performed by UMW students at Klein Theatre. In addition to having a very engaging and well-written story, the musical has a variety of upbeat jazz numbers that are sure to entertain music fans. And of course, the performances given by the UMW cast are wonderful as always.
The play follows the life of Franklin Shephard, a Hollywood music composer who has achieved fame and fortune but has lost the love of his closest friends and family members in the process. What makes the story interesting is that it’s actually told in reverse.
The play begins when Frank has already made his fortune at the cost of everyone he ever cared about, and the next scene takes place several years prior, where we learn how Frank had a falling out with his best friend, the playwright Charley Kringas. Each new scene takes place several years before the previous one, and as we slowly go backwards through time, we slowly learn how the events of the first scene came to be.
We learn how Frank and Charley collaborated to gain success, how they helped and were helped by their friend Mary, the women Frank fell in love with, and how he lost them, his relationship with his son, and so many other details about his life that all lead back to the eccentric yet lonely man that we are introduced to at the start of the musical. It is an interesting narrative choice that I haven’t seen very many stories use before, and it kept me engaged as I was watching.
The acting from the UMW cast was great, as always. The play stars Neal Gallini-Burdick as Frank Shephard, Lydia Hundley as Beth, Abraham Shaikh as Charley Kringas, Olivia Whicheloe as Mary Flynn, William G. Pineda as Joe Josephson, Rachel Williamson as Gussie Carnegie and Aidan Caffrey as Frank Jr., as well as an ensemble cast of supporting characters.
The casting choices were excellent, as all the actors really knew how to bring their characters to life. One thing I found particularly impressive was how the actors were able to adapt to the changing time periods of the various scenes of the musical and act like people from those particular time periods.
I was also very impressed by the musical numbers, as they were all very well performed. The actors were able to show off their vocal range in addition to their acting skills, and the accompanying band played wonderfully. I don’t often watch musicals, but I can say that this one was very impressive.
All in all, seeing the musical was a very pleasant and enjoyable experience. It is worth seeing not only for the great story but for the excellent performances given by our UMW peers. And if you’re a music lover, the great songs on display will surely be pleasing to your ears. The play will be running until Nov. 18, so be sure to get your tickets while you can.