University Players Begin 2014-2015 Season With Merrily We Roll Along

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The CSULB Theatre Arts Department’s University Players open the 2014-2015 season with Merrily We Roll Along, with book by George Furth and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, running October 3rd through 12th in the Studio Theatre. Based on Kaufman and Hart’s eponymous play, Merrily We Roll Along tells the story, in reverse chronological order, of the life of successful Hollywood mogul Franklin Shepard.

Merrily We Roll Along begins at the height of Frank’s career as a movie producer, but at the nadir of his personal life, scorned by his own family and the friends he loved most. The story moves backward in time, revisiting the pivotal moments in Frank’s life and his writing partnership with his friend Charley. As Frank and Charley grow younger and more hopeful, the audience understands what the two men cannot: ahead lie years of both success and pain, both brought about by their own idealism.

Director Joanne Gordon leads a cast of undergraduates who must portray a nearly 20-year span in the lives of their characters while tackling the ever-challenging music of Sondheim. “It’s a huge acting challenge,” says Gordon, for the young actors to effectively handle the music as well as the emotionally-laden scenes. In casting, Gordon looked for the “essence of character, rather than age,” bringing together a diverse group of students ready for the challenge.

The score of Merrily We Roll Along is widely praised as one of Sondheim’s best and “most obviously melodic,” according to Gordon, a scholar and frequent interpreter of Sondheim’s work. “It is glorious and sad and poignant and funny.” The book was revamped by Furth after negative reviews forced the 1981 Broadway production of Merrily to close after a mere 16 performances. Together, Gordon says, the two elements of the work examine “the theme of idealism and friendship and whether those two really significant qualities can be maintained, particularly in a theatrical context.”

Former Theatre Arts Department Chair Joanne Gordon is an award-winning director whose accolades include five Drama- Logue Awards, a Los Angeles Critics Choice Award and being named “Best of the Year” by the Los Angeles Times. She served as a Board Member for the University Resident Theatre Association and as a panelist for the National Association of Theatres. Gordon directs and conducts workshops in both the U.S. and Europe. A native of South Africa, she completed undergraduate work in that country before earning a Ph.D. at UCLA.

Merrily We Roll Along opens Friday, October 3rd, and runs for 11 performances, closing on Sunday, October 12th. Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 2pm and 8pm, with an additional 6pm performance on Sunday, October 12th. There will be a preview performance Thursday, October 2nd at 8pm. This production is in the Studio Theatre on the CSULB South Campus, accessible via West Campus Drive. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors and students (with valid ID). Parking is available next to the theater for $5 or with a valid CSULB parking permit. For tickets and information, please call (562) 985-5526 or visit

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