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Merrily We Roll Along (NYMT) | Southwark Playhouse Elephant

I went into Merrily We Roll Along with no idea what I was going into. All I knew prior the show was that I’d be watching a Sondheim Musical, with characters that go backwards in time, completely performed by students. I had no particular expectations but this production blew me away and I couldn’t fault it at all. Performed by students from National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) with Direction from Katherine Hare, choreography by Julia Cave and musical direction from Leigh Thompson, this production was so fantastic that I wish I could go back to see it again.

Telling the story of three friends - Frank, Charley and Mary, the show has moments of both comedy and sincerity. The set, designed by Libby Todd, really helped to convey the notion of the change in time due to the use of light up panels on the back wall of the balcony, in which dated signs were placed during every transition. This feature was also used at the end of the show, creating a city scape effect. Other elements of the set that were well used was the silhouette corridor at the rear of the set, with fully sliding doors so different areas could open up to create different locations. This was all incredibly effective throughout the performance due to its versatility.

Key stand out moments for me were the comedic timing of Sam Sayan as Joe Josephson during the 1964 section, with the opening and closing of the ‘stage door’ revealing the applause from inside. This element was funny due to the constant repetition of him opening and closing the door causing laughter from the whole audience. All three of the leading actors were incredible in their respective roles. Thomas Oxley’s performance of ‘Franklin Shepard, Inc.’ as Charley Kringas was sensational and received a well deserved long applause.

Madeleine Morgan, who portrayed Mary Flynn definitely had the most drastic character changes throughout the show, going from a drunk in the first scene to someone who ‘hardly ever drinks’ later on. Although I felt that she was more minor of a character than Franklin and Charley, she had the greatest arc and change throughout the piece. An element that stuck with her character the whole time was her feelings and love for Franklin and this was portrayed beautifully throughout. Toby Owers as Franklin Shepard was perfect casting. He definitely carried this show and has incredible vocals and acting skills. You could see his emotions change throughout the piece as his circumstances changed.

Two additional stand outs for me were Matilda Shapland and Sophie Lagden as Beth and Gussie respectively. They both had incredible numbers and their acting though song abilities were through the roof. For Matilda, this was particularly evident in her act one solo, ‘Not a Day Goes By’ and her exceptional soprano notes that she hit perfectly in ‘Bobby and Jackie and Jack’ were jaw drop worthy. Sophie’s Gussie, like Mary, has a strong character arc with a lot of changes throughout the show which I felt were developed amazingly.

There were equally several supporting characters that I felt also deserved mentioning, Marnie Maw as Meg Kincaid at the top of the show was incredibly well acted. Hattie Chandler and Luc de Freitas were a brilliant duo as TV Newspeople. Carmen Farrell was superb as K.T and finally Matilda Penna, the youngest in the cast by four years, was an amazing Frankie Jr, with a beautiful voice that shone in the few moments she got to sing.

With huge names in the list of alumni from NYMT including Sheridan Smith, Kerry Ellis and Stewart Clark, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some of this cast gracing West End stages within the next five years. Merrily We Roll Along is running at the Southwark Playhouse Elephant until August 26th. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | Photography by Konrad Bartelski


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