Cal State Long Beach’s Merrily We Roll Along production boasts some great performances that are ultimately overshadowed by serious blocking issues, making the version a little less “Merry” and a lot more disappointing.
Merrily We Roll Along follows the twisting tale of wealthy and influential songwriter and film producer Franklin Shepard. The show opens with a party being thrown in Shepard’s honor, only to reveal to the audience that despite his popularity and financial success, the most valued relationships in his life are now in shambles. The show begins to go backward in time to reveal episodes from his past that might answer the question of where it all went wrong. At its most basic level, it’s the story of success, not the end of end-all life.
Working backward scene by scene, I was reminded of movies like Citizen Kane that follow a similar storyline. And while the question of “where did it all go wrong?” is never definitively answered, the everyday occurrences of life might be enough to hold our attention if not for one simple thing–the blocking.
The staging was distracting beyond belief. It would appear that someone thought that large, strange set pieces/walls with holes and little windows would serve as artistic, creative, and avant-garde. While the pieces indeed resembled many other art pieces/paintings that can be seen any number of times in a modern-day art exhibit, they do little to enhance the show’s enjoyability. This is because the stage is set in the middle of the audience, and the set pieces block at least half of the performance at any given time. While the articles were utilized as both “boards” to write the year on and props (such as doors), I would rather see the performers over the backs of boards any day.
The strongest performances came from the actors playing Mary(Colleen McCandless), and Charley (Daniel Nakawatase), the blocking and dancing from the rest of the performers were somewhat stilted.
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