Director Lonny Price (Company and 2001’s Sweeney Todd in concert) explores the complexities of the 1981 Broadway musical Merrily We Roll Along. The show, from legendary composer/director team Harold Prince and Stephen Sondheim, is dissected in the new documentary, Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened. Price tackles not only the young actors involved, but the musical’s unprecedented approach of telling protagonist Frank Shepard’s journey from zero to hero by using a backwards time frame.
Prince and Sondheim’s risky vision for their production was to cast all young people. They hosted an open cattle call, advertising for individuals between the ages of 14 and 20 and, after a rigorous audition process, the chosen few felt like the most fortunate actors of their time. Unexpectedly, however, the play flopped. Hard. Attendees fled the theater within minutes of the curtain, and after the first disastrous run, the script was scrapped and one of the main actors was replaced.
The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened guides viewers on an inspiring journey through excitement, disappointment and creative fulfillment. Each actor from the original cast of Merrily We Roll Along (such as Jason Alexander of Seinfield) share their stories about life after the musical’s demise. Stimulating interviews dive into topics important to consider for all creative minds, such as being flexible in one’s career path or following one’s heart despite obstacles.
Price himself flashes back to his glory days as Merrily’s Charley Kringas, which makes the film seem like he is living vicariously, but it is his capturing of the family-like unity found within the theater that becomes the leading message of the film. (Kim Jones)
Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened
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