Showstopper (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Abigail Pogrebin was one of the 28 original cast members. Although the past, to Pogrebin, "feels very much like it's passed," the 30th anniversary of the production later this year is reason enough to reminisce and reflect on how Sondheim's show about aiming high and falling hard has informed her life.
Pogrebin takes us backstage during the musical's genesis, as it progressed from "promising to plagued." There were too many characters to keep straight, the cast had teenagers portraying wizened, world-weary adults. As she says, the "pathos wasn't registering." There were song and cast changes, costume overhauls, the choreographer was let go. More and more, rehearsals became "less jubilant and more sober." After opening night, the critics and particularly Frank Rich in the "New York Times, dealt a mortal blow, Rich calling the cast "dead wood."
Today the musical has become a cult favorite but is still most often remembered in the mainstream for the standard "Not a Day Goes By." In 1981 Pogrebin was a 16-year-old. Auditioning, getting a part - in the ensemble - rehearsing she became part of a team that became a family of troopers who remained in contact and assembled again in 2002 for a one-night special reunion concert.
Pogrebin, now in her 40s, went on to become a successful journalist. Her experience with "Merrily" remains one of the defining moments of her life. The show's last song, "Our Time," has the line "Years from now, we'll remember and we'll come back."
Looking back now, she remembers her part in the show as a moment in her life when she "felt airborne." Her heartfelt memoir, more than anything, succeeds in capturing a special time in her life and a singular moment in musical theater history.
"Merrily" was an unknown to me until I was cast as Beth in a community-theater production a few years back. And I didn't know this author until a few weeks ago. But now I'm a fan of both. Pogrebin gives us a funny, poignant and nuanced look at Sondheim's only flop, which to many of us is one of his biggest hits. She's unafraid to detail its flaws even while reminiscing in an often heartbreaking manner about how much it meant to her. When you're a teenage girl cast in a new Broadway show, every moment is indelible.
I will definitely look up more of the author's bylines. As soon as I test myself on the lyrics to "Franklin Shepard Inc."
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