Sunday September 24th 2017

“Merrily We Roll Along”

Highly recommended  It is always something special to watch new theater companies spread their wings and grow. Now in its third season, The Music Company, located in Highland Park, a company that values the musical as an art form, is presenting one of the greatest artists of the musicals, Stephen Sondheim’s  production of “Merrily We Roll Along” ( with a book by George Furth that is based on the stage play of the same name by Kaufman and Hart). Just looking at the names of those involved in making this play and musical come to life, one knows that there is a lot of magic and talent in the air. “Merrily” is not a glitzy, big production musical. In fact, it is best performed in an intimate theater so that the audience can keep up with the changes of time and feel they know each of the characters.

 I have never been to The Music Theatre Company Space ( 1850 N. Green Bay Road in Highland Park) and found it to be a perfect place for this production. Played to the audience on three sides with a minimal set, Director/Choreographer Jessica Redish allows the actors and  audience to see into each other’s eyes with her  able cast of players showing the true feeling and emotion of the story and the glorious words of Sondheim’s music and lyrics. The story is about three friends, a writer, Mary Flynn ( the always reliable jessie Mueller), Franklin Shepard ( handled to perfection by Jarrod Zimmerman) a musician and Charley Kringas ( deftly handled by Alan Schmuckler, who can convey more character with his face than many actors can with a lot of lines) a lyricist , who along with Franklin writes musicals. The story is told backwards from the end to the start of their careers, introducing us to the characters who played a part in their lives today and yesterday! It is about meeting first loves, creating families, losing love and finding new love as well as loving someone and never letting them know, but always being their for that person, no matter what! It is story about reaching for the stars and following one’s dreams and that you can only succeed if you are not afraid of failure!

The other cast members, the adorable Dara Cameron as Beth ( who does a chilling rendition of one of my favorite songs from the show”Not A Day Goes By”),Stephanie Herman as the voluptuous Gussie ( who does a splendid version of “Growing up”),Jerry Galante as Joe, Gabriel Stern ( might I say an adorable youngster with a radient smile) as young Frank Jr. and an ensemble made up of: Katie Huff,Matthew Kaufmann,Nate Lewellyn,Patrick Martin,Andrew Mueller,Kevin O’Brien,Amy Orman,Hilary Patingre,Kayla Roy, Katie Spelman and Molly Tower. Great voices and movement, but of greater importance, great understanding of the music of Sondheim, making the show a work  that ha syou feeling good as you leave the theater and head home.

Ian Weinberger’s musical direction and three musicians (Patrick Rehker,Adam DeGroot and David Eisenreich) brought the sound of Sondheim to Highland Park with just the right touch, never overpowering the small venue, allowing the audience to hear every word that  tells this story. In many cases, the songs are familiar and yet very few people know where they came from as this is not a show that is done often, but now you have the opportunity to not just see a production of it, but an extraordinary version, but only until May 1st.

Performances are Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.  There will be two Saturday matinees at 3 p.m. on April 15th and 30th

The theater is located at The Karger Center  at 1850 N. Green Bay Rd. ( just north of Central) in beautiful downtown Highland park with plenty of free parking and lots of restaurants in walking distance. The theater company has a dinner package program with Cafe Central at 455 Central Avenue ( 847-266-7878)

Tickets are $30 ( yes, that’s all!) and can be purchased by calling 847-570-4900 or visiting www.themusictheatrecompany.org

                                                         

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