By Megan Lupo
From the moment the first notes played, the orchestra jolted the packed crowd upright with their instrumentals for The Westminster Players’ performance of “Merrily We Roll Along,” written by George Furth and Stephen Sondheim, on April 22.
Not only was the pit electrifying, but so was the cast.
Performed in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse, each of The Westminster Players brought a unique perspective to the thoughtful plot.
Starting off the night was the song, “Merrily We Roll Along,” which was reprised throughout the play and showcased the cast’s colorful costumes.
The believability made this play enjoyable.
From junior musical theater major Lizz Sooy — who played Mary Flynn — rolling her eyes while belting out, to senior voice performance major Megan Gallagher — who played Gussie Carnegie — glaring throughout the song, each actor absorbed the essence of their character.
The story tells about Franklin Shepard, played by freshman music education major Palmer Haffner, a rich songwriter and film producer who is too caught up in success to remember his loyalty to his friends and passion for music.
As the story unravels, the ensemble repeatedly asks Shepard the alluring question of “How did you get to be here?”
The ensemble sang transitions between the scenes, traveling back in time to Shepard’s pivotal moments, such as the opening night of his first production, co-written with his partner, Charley Kringas, played by senior music major Brian Pember.
However, for those unfamiliar with the storyline, however, it may have taken a reprise or two to fully understand that the direction of the play was reversed, starting in present day and moving backward.
As the complex play continued, the elements of Shepard’s life start to make sense of how he got to where he is from where he was.
Because of his hunger for fame, Shepard loses his two best friends — Mary Flynn and Charley Kringas — with the pinky promises and motto between the three, “Who’s like us? Damn few” ceasing.
Shepard severed ties with Kringas after the impressively snide performance of “Franklin Shepard, Inc.,” a number that exposed Shepard’s signing of a movie deal in the middle of a live television interview without his partner’s knowledge.
The song “Old Friends” expressed the trio’s naivety into believing that the love between them will be lifelong. It was bittersweet for the audience.
The prospect of fortune is enough to be all that Shepard cared about, but the seductive Carnegie, Broadway actress and eventually Shepard’s wife, drove a wedge between him and his old life.
Shepard and Carnegie’s affair broke apart both of their marriages, causing Shepard’s former wife Beth Spencer — played by junior music major Claire Campbell — to give a heart-wrenching performance of “Not a Day Goes By” about this betrayal of love.
After the intermission, “Act 2 Opening” was performed by Gallagher, starting in the back of the Playhouse and strutting down the center aisle in a fitted, glittery gown. The old-Hollywood glam of this performance further validated the stark contrast between the sultry Carnegie and modest Spencer.
The year reverts back to when Shepard and Kringas are about to get their big break. They perform together in front of those appropriately deemed “the blob,” the single-minded people used to fill cocktail events, with “Good Thing Going.” Shepard plays piano while Kringas sings, reminiscent of how the pals used to compose and produce music.
The next scene shows that Spencer used to perform with Shepard and Kringas. The three exhibited their spectacular vocal ability in the upbeat number of “Bobby and Jackie and Jack,” comparing themselves to the Kennedys.
Ending the show where Shepard’s career began with Kringas and Flynn was poignant, as it showed that wealth is incomparable to the single glimmer of hope. The friends met on a rooftop, as they watched Sputnik fly across the night sky. This sight inspired Shepard, Kringas and Flynn to believe their time was coming with their performance of “Our Time.”
Although Shepard’s life does not turn out as merrily as it started, the three friends are still “the names in tomorrow’s papers.”
From the lights to the music to the costumes, The Westminster Players successfully pulled off a challenging show, which was evident by the crowd’s standing ovation.
Published in the 4/26/17 edition.