Merrily We Roll Along

Original Broadway Cast

1982: Sony BMG 82879-68637-2

  1. Overture
  2. The Hills of Tomorrow
    Merrily We Roll Along (1980)
    Rich and Happy
  3. Merrily We Roll Along (1979–1975)
    Old Friends
    Like It Was
  4. Merrily We Roll Along (1974–1973)
    Franklin Shepard, Inc
  5. Old Friends
  6. Not a Day Goes By
  7. Now You Know
  8. It’s a Hit!
  9. Merrily We Roll Along (1964–1962)
    Good Thing Going
  10. Merrily We Roll Along (1961–1960)
    Bobby and Jackie and Jack
  11. Not a Day Goes By
  12. Opening Doors
  13. Our Time
  14. The Hills of Tomorrow

    Bonus Tracks

  15. It’s a Hit [Stephen Sondheim]
  16. Not a Day Goes By [Bernadette Peters]

From Tony Lang’s The Gay Cliché (Or How to Be a Homosexual Guy and Still Maintain Some Slight Degree of Individuality) (St Martins Press, New York, 1985), page 36, Three Stephen Sondheim Rules, #2:

“Don’t have a theory about how Merrily We Roll Along could have worked. And don’t love the cast album. Don’t even know that it was recorded.”

From Adrienne Onofri’s September 2007 interview with Ann Morrison (the original Mary):

Do you listen to the cast album?
For years I could not; it was so painful. We recorded the album the day after we closed. I think one of the reasons that album is so popular and so magnificent is you can hear the pain and the sadness. You can really feel the emotion that is there. Now I can listen to it, with a tremendous amount of heart around it. The wounding’s gone.

I don’t dare weigh in with any opinions about this show until I’m sure I’m saying what I mean to say…and with Sondheim that can truly take some reflection time. What I can say in the interim is that there is some dazzlingly good stuff on this album and that I can totally see why it bombed on Broadway and is likely to not work in other productions. My most intensely beloved track on this album is “Now You Know,” which really is reason to worship Sondheim in itself (and to bow profoundly to Ann Morrison for the intensity of her recording of it). “Franklin Shephard Inc.” seems like it should be such a one-off joke only enjoyable the first time, but actually it’s quite amazing. And “Not a Day Goes By” in nearly any recording would be a gut-wrenching experience to hear; Bernadette Peters’s rendition is a prime example, but I recently heard Julie Andrews cover it and even in that refined-sounding context the ache and the longing were solidly present.

Well, actually I can say one thing for sure about this musical, specifically about the original production—casting teenagers and 20-somethings to play middle-aged adults may have been one of the fundamental concepts, but it was a terrible one for a professional-theatre context; young people playing old people always look like just that, just as sure as Bill Murray is always Bill Murray in a film no matter what his character is or does, and there is no amount of suspension of disbelief that can erase the obvious reality…including notably the un-aged voices, which sound like what they are and not what they’re purporting to be.