By Jason Mount
The Westminster Players are ready to explore the transition of the stage to the screen in their upcoming performance of “Merrily We Roll Along,” running April 20 through 22.
The group will bring the story of Franklin Shepard — a former Broadway musical composer who switches gears to produce Hollywood films — to life, and will travel backwards in Shepard’s story to revisit key decisions he has made.
Westminster Players artistic director Maclain Hardin explained that “Merrily We Roll Along” plays heavily on themes of friendship, as each of the moments in the main character’s past deal with his “long, tumultuous friendships.” She also explained that themes of community and commitment are prevalent with Franklin Shepard’s life choices.
Freshman music education major Palmer Haffner, who plays Shepard, shared his thoughts on his character and decisions.
“Frank is a challenging character because he’s incredibly complex,” Haffner said. “He makes some questionable decisions. Therefore, I need to understand the decisions he makes and why he is making those decisions as a person.”
Haffner’s character was not the only challenging one it seems, as Hardin commented on how the show proves to be a challenge as a whole.
“This beautifully crafted show is certainly the biggest challenge the Westminster Players have taken on in the past two seasons,” Hardin explained. She attributed the show’s high energy, fast pace, and “rich, lush harmonies and thoughtfully placed lines” as its main challenges, as well as limited rehearsal time and the demanding versatility of the roles.
Haffner also commented on his character’s goals throughout the show, and how they change as time passes.
“Due to his talent for music making, he starts to get sucked out of working for his passion and starts to only write for money,” Haffner explained. “He’s very ambitious but he falls victim to what he thinks is satisfaction and his ambition, but is really just money.”
With every production, the cast and crew experienced certain highlights during rehearsals. Haffner says his favorite part is all in the performance.
“My favorite part of this production is definitely being able to portray a character so complex,” Haffner said. “It’s challenged me a lot as an actor and made me rethink how I perform in certain ways.“
Hardin also named some of her personal highlights, crediting them to the people around her.
“One of my favorite parts of every show I’ve done with the Players is watching how the cast bonds with each other in and outside of rehearsal,” Hardin said. “Throughout my years with the Players, I have also strived to create positive cross-campus relationships. In the past three productions we’ve put on, we’ve had nearly 10 Lawrenceville students participate. It’s been so wonderful collaborating with them through our Westminster-based organization.”
Hardin expressed that she wants audience members to “come to our performance, leave all of their concerns and stress at the door, and be transformed for two hours by the magic of live theater.”
When it comes to learning a lesson from the show, Haffner wants audience members to take heed of the warning his character’s story gives: do not lose passion.
“This is what can happen to people when they lose sight of the passion behind the art,” said Haffner. “That’s what art is about. Money is a necessary part of living, but it can’t define an artist.”
“Merrily We Roll Along” will be performed in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse at Westminster Choir College on April 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free for Rider students, faculty and staff, and $8 for General Admission. Tickets can be purchased through the online box office: bit.ly/2oP44ay.
Published in the 4/19/17 edition.