Melbourne based independent outfit, Watch This, is rolling along quite nicely. With their 2016 regional tour of Company done and dusted, they’ve racked up a total of 5 first-class productions, 12 Green Room Award nominations and a gong for Best Supporting Actor (Adrian Li Donni, Pacific Overtures). If that sounds a bit like a Christmas carol, then you’ll love the timing of this announcement. In 2017, they’ll celebrate their fifth year with a season of … Merrily!*
“Merrily We Roll Along is a show about dreams and desire, about how we each chart our respective course and define ‘success’,” says Artistic Director, Sonya Suares. “And of course, because it’s Sondheim, it’s also about the cost of our choices.”
So it is like A Christmas Carol, then?
“Ha! Well, in a sense, yes. The three central characters in the show, Franklin, Charley and Mary, are creatives and best friends. We start at the darkest moment of their friendship, the moment it finally fractures, and then peel back from there to understand what led them to this point. So … you know, the ghosts are figurative rather than literal!”
Watch This is a grass-roots company running on the barest of resources in a highly competitive field. Was the choice to program a show that profiles the pitfalls of working in the arts deliberate?
“The irony definitely doesn’t escape me! It is a terribly difficult equation at every level – at a personal level, within the independent landscape and even in the commercial sphere. You only need to look at the original Broadway production of Merrily to see how precarious it all is.”
And, in fact, you can do just that. Or at least, you can glimpse at it in the trailer of the Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened, a film by Lonny Price released just a couple of weeks ago in the US. Through the eyes of it’s original stars, it’s a fascinating tale of the highs and lows of Merrily‘s Broadway debut. Seriously, if you have 2 minutes, watch this:
But you’re not daunted?
“No. Well, no more than usual! It’s always a bit daunting,” admits Suares.
“I think I stake my faith on the strength of our teams and of the material itself. Sondheim is so wonderfully rich. Assassins and Pacific Overtures were overtly political and resonant: they spoke to audiences about social inclusion versus radicalisation, the fragility of human connection and the forces of change/ their impact on cultural and individual identity. With Company and now Merrily, we travel into interpersonal and psychological territory.”
“Even the construction of each of show is interesting. With Merrily, we journey backwards, from the ‘end’ to the ‘beginning’, as it were. And I think this is because we, all of us, can only make sense of our life story in retrospect.”
“Merrily is much more than a show about show-business. It’s about people and life and the never-ending twists, turns and cul de sacs. And, as always, love.”
Directed by Sara Grenfell, Choreographed by David Wynen and Musically Directed by Cameron Thomas, Merrily We Roll Along will play at the Lawler Theatre in July next year.
“The creative team are really excited to get onto casting this show. We’ve been blessed with such incredibly talented ensembles to date, we just can’t wait to assemble the next one.”
“People can definitely head to the website and get in touch. We’ll be briefing from Tuesday 2 January and we’ll invite artists to audition from there. Auditions will be Saturday 28 – Sunday 29 January, 2017.”
So, no rest for the wicked this Christmas then?
“Oh no, I am definitely taking a break. It’s been a massive year – I’m very much looking forward to rolling around in the backyard with the kids.”
Well, we can’t argue with those life choices. As always, we’ll keep watching this not-so-little company chart its singularly impressive course.
* I may have over-reached on the Sondheim/ Dickens/ carol / festive-slash-production ‘season’ puns, but it was too hard to resist. If you reckon you’ve got a better one, send it through. We could call it a competition and hit Watch This up for free tickets for the best one.
Update: Sonya says: “Absolutely! The best ‘Tis the Season to Merrily Announce a Sondheim Show by Watch This one-liner gets two opening night tickets to see us at the Lawler!