MMNT spring musical premieres on campus


The play moves backwards in time over about twenty years.

Mary Moody Northen Theatre will open “Merrily We Roll Along” on April 3.

“Merrily We Roll Along” is a musical that follows the professional life of composer Franklin Shepard backwards in time. The opening scene shows Shepard as a prosperous film producer, and the show ends with Shepard barely starting out as a poor composer.

The three main characters of the show are Shepard, Mary and Charley, played by actors Scott Shipman, Brittany Allyson and Tyler Jones respectively.

The musical tells the story through American history. It starts in the year 1976 when the United States was in the middle of the Cold War, and ends in 1957 with the characters watching the launch of the Russian satellite, Sputnik.

Director of the show and Assistant Professor of Theater Arts Ev Lunning Jr. said the last scene is supposed to be idealistic and symbolize the character’s feelings that anything is possible.

This idealistic feeling is mimicked by the second-to-last song “Opening Doors” which has an optimistic, upbeat tone.

The reverse chronology of the musical makes it interesting to watch and ensures the show ends on a happy note. There are several transitions throughout the show that narrate the timeframe.

“It’s a musical where you have to pay attention,” Lunning said.

The musical was written by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth, but was adapted from an earlier play with the same name. The time period in which the play is set was updated when Sondheim and Furth adapted the play.  Sondheim has written 17 musicals and tends to not use many traditional elements in his song and lyric writing. Because of his complex signature style, many of the cast and crew thought it was a challenging show to put on.

The show incorporates a lot of choreography, lyrics and many cast members singing at the same time. Sam Kokajko, who was in charge of sound design, said he faced many challenges with the microphone setup because there are so many transitions between characters on mic at a single time.

“I took Capstone last semester, and this is harder,” Sadie Hollifield, a senior and production stage manager for the show, said. 

Nineteen St. Edward’s students and three equity actors make up the cast. Both cast and crew have been working about 18 weeks to put on the show. Lunning has put in about 400 hours of work.

Student discount days are April 4 and 10, where tickets will be discounted to $8. For more information on reservations or tickets, call the Mary Moody Northen Theatre box office at 512-448-8484.