By Caroline Forde
Audiences will feel they are literally turning back the clock when Westminster College of the Arts performs Merrily We Roll Along from April 23-27 in the Yvonne Theater.
Under the direction of Nathan Hurwitz, assistant professor of musical theater, the show is told chronologically backward. Sophomore Emma Rose Brooks, who plays Mary Flynn, a main character, said working backwards made rehearsals a bit confusing.
“At first it was pretty difficult, since the show starts at the end of the story,” said Brooks. “It helped that we started with the last scene of Act Two. What’s really interesting about this show is that we have to keep peeling the layers. It’s so bizarre and so fascinating, and it’s crazy and amazing at the same time. I’m a better person and actor because of it.”
The show revolves around Franklin Shepard (sophomore Colby Dezelick) as he abandons his friends and song-writing career to become a Hollywood producer. The show gives an in-depth look into the changing friendship between Franklin, Mary Flynn (Brooks) and Charley Kingras (junior Matthew Fairlee).
“They form this amazing friendship and have such a strong bond,” Brooks said. “The show focuses on the friendship between Mary, Charley and Frank, the ups and downs, and the life lessons that go along with it.”
This production has been a long time coming for Rider, as it has been a dream for Hurwitz to direct.
“I saw the original production in 1981, and it was fascinating,” Hurwitz said. “I’ve loved the show ever since.”
The original production is infamous for not being very successful, but Hurwitz was up for the challenge of reimagining the piece.
“I thought the material would be fun to work with and would challenge the students,” Hurwitz said. “There’s something about shows that work very well, like A Chorus Line, which we did earlier this year, where you feel obligated to recreate what was done because it worked. Working on material that never quite worked exactly gives you the liberty to explore it a little deeper, and develop your own take on the material.”
Hurwitz believes that the show displays a deeper meaning, one that can have an impact on college students.
“When I started reading the script and really immersed myself in it, I realized that this play is an admonition to the audience saying, ‘Tend your dream or it might veer off course,’” he said. “I figured, what better place to make that statement than to a university? To people whose dreams can easily get swept aside if you’re not careful.”
Brooks feels that her character is easily relatable for the audience, and that there are distinct likenesses between herself and her role.
“We both are the same when we deal with friendship and in times of struggle,” she said. “Sometimes you have to go to extreme measures to really do what you need to do to keep a friendship alive, and sometimes it can make or break you.”
Hurwitz agreed that the play will make audiences think about the plots on various levels of meaning.
“This play is hardened in the best possible way,” Hurwitz said. “It’s got a lot of layers to it. The people in this play don’t always behave admirably. They always act with the best intentions, but they do things that are not thoughtful.”
Hurwitz also believes that the musical is timeless and will speak to many people.
“This is a play, some of which is sung, some of which is choreographed, but, at its heart, it’s a play that really touches us all,” he said.
Printed in the 4/23/14 edition.