Saturday, 22 July 2017

Merrily We Roll Dramaturgy: BBTP @ Edfringe 2017


Following an acclaimed 5-star reviewed production of Sondheim’s Assassins at The Chelsea Theatre and The Edinburgh Fringe in 2016, BB Theatre Productions is excited to present another Sondheim classic, Merrily We Roll Along, during the first week of the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe.  

C Venues +3, Adam House, Chambers Street 
from 5 - 12 August at 12.10pm

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Merrily we Roll along epitomises the life of anyone who has loved and lost, whilst trying to make their way in the world. The clue lies in the title. For all its sadness this show truly is a "merry" experience -  witty, tunefully inventive and entertaining. 

With our production we throw a spotlight on the struggles we all face working in the musical theatre industry, the bickering and subsequent fall-out between old friends, the rejections, put-downs and faux-pas that are all part of Sondheim's inspirational musical package, inspired by his own experiences of trying to make it on Broadway.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

The theatre is a place where ideas can be analysed, discussed and scrutinised through the heightened emotions that live theatre brings. Some pieces provoke discussion and debate that keeps you thinking long after you’ve left the theatre. 

The Fringe is the perfect place to keep this integrity and as an audience member you can choose to enjoy the show on a superficial level or dig deeper for the hidden messages and questions that every performance asks those sharing it.

How did you become interested in making performance?

BB Theatre Productions was founded in 2015, with the aim of taking top local talent to perform powerful musical theatre on the national stage. 

Having worked extensively in music theatre, our Artistic Director, Bridget Biggar is passionate about giving up-and-coming talent the opportunity to perform professionally, both locally and further afield. 

Not based on the standard repertory company model, cast are always hand-picked to be appropriate both in terms of age, talent and vocal style. Our vision for the future includes a professional tour of university and college theatres, giving exposure to works not typically performed by amateur groups.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

We aimed to keep the set and costumes simple with the changes in era alluded to by time-appropriate props and costumes. The on stage live band adds to the drama and we therefore don't have the usual barriers between cast and musicians imposed by the classic layout with the band in the orchestra pit. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

This is our second show at the Edinburgh Fringe, following our inaugural production of another Sondheim masterpiece, Assassins, in 2016. Next year, watch this space for another piece of powerful music theatre.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Hopefully a juxtaposition of emotions.  Always one step ahead even as it rewinds, Merrily has the freshness of real-time thought and the purity of genuine emotion which we are sure our audiences will respond to. 

We all lose our way at times and become estranged from firm friends,asking  "How did you get to be here?". Sometimes we need to peel back the years in search of an answer.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Our strategy was to produce an enjoyable, though provoking and emotive piece of musical theatre. We want our audience to laugh, cry and to embrace what is one of Sondheim's true gems.

BBTP’s mission is to bring local talent to the national stage, producing shows with professional production values, a stellar cast and professional band, and this show is no exception. A poignant and uplifting musical, this heart-rending show explores friendship, ambition and the pressures of show business.

Starting at a hedonistic Hollywood showbiz party in 1976 and working its way back to the New York rooftop in 1957, Merrily We Roll Along portrays the story of three friends who we join at the end of their friendship, tussling with disappointment, heartbreak and disillusionment with fame. 

The story moves back through time, each musical number perfectly scored to reflect the genre of its era and the emotional roller-coaster of its characters. 

The musical score is punchy, lyrical and contains some of Sondheim’s most sparkling narrative writing including Our Time and Old Friends. As two of the friends try to make it into show business, we hear some of Sondheim’s own early frustrations with agents not daring to make the break from traditional musicals.

The reverse chronology time structure heightens audience emotion, wistfully pointing out the artistic and personal compromises faced by the characters along the way. A must see, both for Sondheim aficionados, but also for anyone with a passion for musical theatre.

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