Roundabout takes new look at ‘Merrily’

Troubled Sondheim tuner may be revived

Stephen Sondheim fans can only hope and pray.

The Roundabout is planning a September reading of the composer-lyricist’s troubled baby “Merrily We Roll Along.”

The musical’s original production ran only 52 previews and 16 regular perfs in 1981. Based on Kaufman & Hart’s 1934 play, the George Furth book for “Merrily” tells the story of three best friends who succeed in the hurlyburly world of showbiz, only to discover that it’s lonely at the top. In a novel switch that some critics say doomed the musical, as well as the original play, the “Merrily” tale is told in reverse, leading back to the characters’ high school graduation.

First step?

Roundabout’s crack at the problematic Sondheim musical is only a reading, but sometimes these on-the-book affairs (open to the company’s subscribers) have a way of developing into full productions. Most recent example: A June reading of “Twentieth Century” with Alec Baldwin has led to plans for a full production of the vintage comedy at the company’s American Airlines Theater this winter.

Gavin Creel, Lauren Ward and Joey Sorge have been cast in “Merrily.” A spokesman for Roundabout confirmed the reading but not the casting. Matthew Warchus directs.

Sondheim vets

The thesps all Sondheim alums. Warchus directed the Roundabout’s 2001 “Follies” revival, which featured Ward and Sorge, who also appeared in the Second Stage production of Sondheim’s first musical, “Saturday Night,” in 2000. Creel starred in the composer-lyricist’s most recent work, “Bounce,” at Chi’s Goodman Theater this summer and reprises his work in the Kennedy Center production of the tuner this fall.

The three actors are a tad more mature than the teen thesps who graced the original Broadway production, directed by Hal Prince. With few exceptions, the helmer’s ultra-youthful casting did not meet with critical approval back in 1981.