Merrily We Roll Along
January 26, 2018 – March 17, 2018 (2017 – 2018 Season)
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by George Furth
Based on the play by George S. Kaufman
Direction by Michael Weber
Music Direction by Aaron Benham
Associate Direction and Musical Staging by Christopher Pazdernik
Set over three decades of friendship and business, the landmark musical Merrily We Roll Along charts the highs and lows of a relationship among three very close friends. Starting from adulthood and traveling back in time to the idealistic intentions of youth, this powerful and emotionally moving story of looking at your life from the vantage point of having lived it features some of Stephen Sondheim’s best known songs including “Good Thing Going,” “Not a Day Goes By” and “Old Friends.”
KYRIE ANDERSON (Evelyn) is excited to make her debut mainstage performance with Porchlight Music Theatre where she previously performed in New Faces Sing Broadway 2001! Other recent credits include: Lizzie (Firebrand Theatre), Fly By Night, My Way, A Tribute to Frank Sinatra and Blood Brothers (Theo Ubique), Mary Poppins and Songs for a New World (NightBlue), and Next Thing You Know (Towle Theatre). As always, she thanks her family and friends for their never-ending love and support.
LARRY BALDACCI (Mr. Spencer) is thrilled to be working with Porchlight Music Theater again where he was last seen in A Catered Affair. Other appearances include: West Side Story, Oklahoma, 42nd Street, and The Music Man (Paramount Theatre) West Side Story (Drury Lane Oakbrook), Ragtime, Spring Awakening and Company (Griffin Theatre), The Crucible (Steppenwolf for Young Adults), and The Farnsworth Invention and The Front Page (TimeLine Theatre), among others. As always, this is for Ray.
NEALA BARRON (Mary Flynn) is so thrilled to be working with Porchlight Music Theatre again, where she was previously seen in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Select other Chicago and regional productions include: Ragtime and Titanic (Griffin Theatre Company), Tug of War: Civil Strife (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), Adding Machine (The Hypocrites), Marie Christine (Boho Theatre), Assassins and The Full Monty (Kokandy Productions), Triassic Parq! and First Lady Suite (Circle Theatre), Now. Here. This, [title of show], and A New Brain (Brown Paper Box Co.). She holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
KATHERINE CONDIT (Scotty) is delighted to be making her debut with Porchlight Music Theatre. Most recently she was seen as “Old Albert” in the world premiere of The Civility of Albert Cashier. Prior to that Katherine received a Jeff Nomination for her work as “Margaret White” in Bailiwick Chicago’s Carrie. In Chicago: Riverview (Goodman), Damn Yankees (Oakbrook) and All In The Timing (The Organic). Other credits: Chess (Broadway), “Val” in A Chorus Line (National Tour) and “Grizabella” in Cats (Vienna/Zurich). Katherine co-founded cobalt ensemble theatre that enjoyed a Jeff Citation winning 5-year lifespan. Deep gratitude to husband David.
MATT CROWLE*+ (Charley Kringas) is grateful to be returning to Porchlight Music Theatre where his credits include directing and choreographing Double Trouble, and his Jeff Award-winning turn as “Hysterium” in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. A Porchlight Artistic Associate, Crowle also had a ball last Spring attempting to fill Sid Caesar’s shoes in the Porchlight Revisits production of Little Me. Other Chicago and regional highlights include: “Leo Bloom” in The Producers (Mercury Theater Chicago), “Bert” in Mary Poppins (Paramount Theatre), “Dr. Frederick Frankenstein” in Young Frankenstein (St. Michael’s Playhouse), “Cosmo Brown” in Singin’ In The Rain (Drury Lane Oakbrook), and “Cornelius Hackl” in Hello, Dolly! (Gateway Playhouse). Crowle also performed in the Broadway company of Monty Python’s Spamalot and tap danced across the country with Tommy Tune in the national tour of Doctor Dolittle. Love and thanks to Ma, Pa, and Sis Crowle and to his brilliant and better half, Erin. www.mattcrowle.com
CHRISTOPHER DAVIS (Terry) couldn’t be more thrilled to make his Porchlight Music Theatre debut in such an under-appreciated piece of music theatre! He just finished productions of A Wonderful Life and Cabaret (Theatre At The Center). Besides frequenting the Chicagoland TYA and Murder Mystery scenes, Christopher performs often at the Raue Center for the Arts (most recently “Dentist” in Little Shop of Horrors, “Aaron” in First Date) and did six shows at Rocky Mountain Rep. Never-ending thanks go out to Mom and the Aunts for their support.
JIM DeSELM* (Franklin Shephard) is happy to return to Porchlight Music Theatre, where he previously appeared in A Catered Affair. Chicago area credits include: West Side Story, Beaches (Drury Lane Oakbrook), Road Show (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), James Joyce’s The Dead (Court Theatre), Fiddler on the Roof (Paramount Theatre), Xanadu (ATC), South Pacific (Marriott Theatre), Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar (Theatre at the Center), Juno (TimeLine Theatre), Parade and Floyd Collins (BoHo Theatre, Jeff Award Nomination – Actor/Musical), The Mikado (The Hypocrites), The Last Five Years (Kokandy Productions, Jeff Award Nomination – Actor/Musical), and Pump Boys & Dinettes (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, Jeff Nomination – Music Direction). Regional credits include: Snapshots (Village Theatre/Arizona Theatre Company), Oklahoma!, Once Upon A Mattress, and Plain & Fancy (Round Barn Theate). Television credits include: Chicago P.D. and Chicago Justice (NBC).
ANDRÉS ENRIQUEZ (Tyler) is humbled to be returning to Porchlight Music Theatre where he performed in In The Heights and New Faces Sing Broadway 1939. Other select Chicago credits include: The Woman In Black (Fox Valley Rep), The Adding Machine (The Hypocrites), Northanger Abbey and Sylvester (Lifeline), and It’s A Wonderful Life (Theater At The Center). Andrés is a proud company member of Lifeline Theater, and is represented by Gray Talent Group.
ZACHARY SCOTT FEWKES (Frank, Jr.) is proud to be making his Porchlight Music Theatre debut! Select Chicago area credits include: Peter Pan, Mame, A Christmas Carol, James and the Giant Peach, King John, The Polar Express, Oliver!, and The Secret Garden. Zach, who is 11 years old, is also passionate about piano, trumpet, golf, and baseball. Thanks to Porchlight for this opportunity and to his teachers, friends, family, and the team at Gray for their support
DAVID FIORELLO (Joe Josephson) was Music Director for Porchlight Revisits Woman of the Year and the last four New Faces Sing Broadway. He music directed and arranged Chicago Sings: Sinatra and the Rat Pack, and will music direct the next 2 New Faces and the upcoming Porchlight Revisits Do Re Mi. Off-Broadway credits: Danny & Sylvia and Dietrich & Chevalier. Touring credit: John Doyle’s Sweeney Todd. As a performer, David’s favorite roles include: “Booth” in Assassins, “Andrews” in Titanic, “Stine” in City of Angels, “Dickinson” in 1776, and “Jamie” in Bright Lights, Big City.
FREDERICK HARRIS (Jerome) is thrilled to be performing in his first Porchlight Music Theatre mainstage production following his appearance in New Faces Sing Broadway 1939. Recent productions: Little Shop of Horrors, Hands on a Hardbody (William Street Repertory Theatre), Ragtime (Griffin Theatre), The Wiz (Kokandy Productions – winner of a Black Theatre Alliance Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical), Direct From Deathrow The Scottsboro Boys (Raven Theatre – winner of the Jeff Award for Best Ensemble), and Nunsense (Beverly Arts Center). Frederick received his MFA from The Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Frederick is thankful to God and the Spirit of his Ancestors for continuing to give love and light this life.
MICHELLE JASSO (K.T.) is delighted to make her debut with Porchlight Music Theatre. A California native, Jasso has appeared in Chicagoland with Teatro Vista, Lifeline Theatre, and Oil Lamp Theatre, and regionally with the Wyoming Theatre Festival, Opera Grand Rapids, Portland Opera, and The Industry in Los Angeles. Michelle is a proud member of the American Guild of Musical Artists and of the Alliance of Latino Theatre Artists, and is represented by Big Mouth Talent. More at www.michellejasso.com.
BERNELL LASSAI III (Bunker/TV Newsman) is grateful to work with Porchlight Music Theatre again after appearing in Billy Elliot the Musical and Porchlight Revisits The Rink. Select regional productions include: Smokey Joe’s Café (The Little Theatre On The Square), Giggle, Giggle, Quack (Lifeline Theatre), A Christmas Carol (Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre), Antony & Cleopatra (Shakespeare Festival St. Louis), Tarzan (Bigfork Summer Playhouse), and You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (Hope Summer Repertory Theatre). Bernell was born and raised in Chicago and is a graduate of The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University.
CISCO LOPEZ (Floor Monitor/Minister) returns to Porchlight Music Theatre where he has appeared in Porchlight Revisits Woman of the Year, New Faces Sing Broadway 2001, and In The Heights. Other Chicago credits: Bonnie & Clyde (Kokandy Productions), Letters Home (Griffin Theatre), Planted (Rogue Elephant Productions), Dead Man Walking (Piven Theatre), Mutt (Stage Left/Red Tape Theatre), Macbeth (Midsommer Flight), Take Me Out (Eclectic Theatre), and Fiddler on the Roof (Light Opera Works). Film credits: Boystown and Closet Memories. He holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from Baylor University and is represented by Shirley Hamilton.
ALANNA LOVELY (Meg/TV Newswoman) is so excited to finally be joining the Porchlight Music Theatre family! Chicago credits include: Ragtime (Griffin Theatre), Bare: A Pop Opera (Refuge Theater), and A Christmas Story: The Musical (Paramount Theater). Regional credits include: Mother Divine and The Music Man (Western Playhouse). Other Credits: Comedy Studies Showcase (Second City). TV credit: Empire (Fox).
LIZ NORTON (Mrs. Spencer) is thrilled to be making her Porchlight Music Theatre debut. Credits include: A New Brain (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre), The Wizard of Oz and Into the Woods (Skylight Music Theatre), La Cage Aux Folles (Marriott Theatre), Dear World and Pal Joey (Boulevard Theatre), Hello, Dolly! (Sunset Playhouse), Drowsy Chaperone and Mame (The Box), Kiss of the Spider Woman (Off the Wall), Follies (Soulstice Theatre), and Company (Lake Country Playhouse). www.liznortonsings.com
KHAKI PIXLEY (Dory/Girl Auditioning) is excited to return to Porchlight Music Theatre after having been a part of Porchlight Revisits On A Clear Day…, Porchlight Revisits Applause, and A Class Act. Select other Chicago credits include: The Wild Party (Bailiwick — Jeff Award, Best Ensemble), Jesus Christ Superstar (Theo Ubique), Let’s Misbehave (Fox Valley Rep), Tarzan (Night Blue), Haymarket (Underscore), and The Baker’s Wife (Circle Theatre). Khaki has spent the last three years touring internationally with The Man In Black Show: A Tribute to Johnny Cash. Khaki proudly hails from Traverse City, MI and received a BM from CCPA at Roosevelt University. Special thanks to Michael and Aaron.
ASHER SCHENK (Frank, Jr.) is thrilled to make his Chicago theatre debut in Merrily We Roll Along! A huge shout-out to Jenny Helmbold, his amazing voice and piano teacher. Todah rabah to Charki Dunn and Brian Zane, who taught him to love singing and performing at Bernard Zell. To his big brother/role model Jonah and his big sister/theatre mentor Ivy — He loves following in your giant footsteps! And to Mom and Dad for encouraging him to try everything!
JONATHAN STOMBRES (Ru/Nightclub Pianist) is so excited to be making his Porchlight Music Theatre debut! Recently, he was seen in The Civility of Albert Cashier with Permoveo Productions. Select other Chicagoland credits include: Fly By Night (Theo Ubique), Tomorrow Morning (Kokandy Productions), and Hair (Metropolis). Jonathan is a proud graduate of the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music where he earned degrees in Voice Performance and Music Education. For Mom, Dad, Adam, and Abigail. @jon_stom.
KEELY VASQUEZ* (Gussie Carnegie) is a Chicago-based actor, singer, voice-over artist and teacher. She is thrilled to be returning to Porchlight Music Theatre where she was last seen in In The Heights. In 2017, she had the pleasure of hosting New Faces Sing Broadway 2001, co-directing Chicago Sings! Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, and directing New Faces Sing Broadway 1939, all with Porchlight. Other theatrical credits include shows at Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre, The Paramount Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, The Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, The Mercury Theatre and The Broadway Playhouse. She toured with Barry Manilow for nearly a decade and was featured on more than 20 television shows as well as six DVD specials.
AJA WILTSHIRE (Beth) is thrilled to be making her Porchlight Music Theatre debut. Previous Chicago credits include Little Fish (Kokandy Productions), Hookman (Steep Theatre), Cinderella at the Theater of Potatoes (Hypocrites), Spring Awakening (Griffin), The Wedding Singer (Haven), Pride and Prejudice (Adapt Theatre), and Teddy Ferrara (Goodman Theater). Aja is a company member of The Hypocrites and AstonRep (Closer, Next Fall, The Lyons) and is represented by Stewart Talent.
*Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in America
^Denotes members of the United Scenic Artists IATSE, the Union and Professional Association of Designers, Artists, and Craftspeople
+Denotes Porchlight Music Theatre Artistic Associate
MICHAEL WEBER (Director) most recently directed End of the Rainbow for Porchlight Music Theatre as well as the Porchlight Revisits productions of Woman of the Year, Chess, Mack & Mabel, Bells Are Ringing, and Fade Out – Fade In. His productions of Sweeney Todd, Pal Joey and Assassins at Porchlight Music Theatre, Grand Hotel at Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place and She Loves Me at Theatre at the Center were each nominated for the Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Production-Musical. Other directing credits include Living the History-125 Years of the Auditorium Theatre starring Patti Lupone, John Mahoney, and stars of Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and others, Fifth of July and Talley’s Folly at the Oak Park Festival Theatre, The Petrified Forest at Theatre at the Center, Beauty and the Beast at Marriott Theatre, Over the River and Through the Woods at Mercury Theater, and Cirque du Symphony at Sears Center Arena. The recipient of two Joseph Jefferson Awards, he has written and directed the past ten Joseph Jefferson Awards ceremonies. Weber’s regional acting credits include The Merry Widow and The Sound of Music at Lyric Opera, 42nd Street at Paramount, Annie Get Your Gun and Gypsy (both starring Patti LuPone) at Ravinia, Disney’s My Son Pinocchio at First Stage Milwaukee, Around the World in 80 Days at Cleveland Playhouse, The Winter’s Tale and Henry V at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Angel Street at First Folio Shakespeare, and The Gifts of the Magi at Indiana Repertory. Having served previously as artistic director of Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place (now The Broadway Playhouse) and Theatre at the Center, Michael is proud to serve as a pledge host on WTTW, Channel 11.
AARON BENHAM (Music Director/Conductor) has worked previously with Porchlight Music Theatre with productions of Side Show, Scottsboro Boys, and Putting it Together. Other Chicago credits include: Marie Christine (BoHo), Bewildered (Hell in a Handbag), Xanadu (ATC), Wild Party (Jeff Award — Bailiwick Chicago), and work with About Face, Chicago Opera Theater, Kokandy, Montana Shakespeare, Pride Films & Plays, Theo Ubique, Timberlake Playhouse, and Writer’s Theatre.
CHRISTOPHER PAZDERNIK+ (Associate Director/Musical Staging) is best known for his critically acclaimed production of High Fidelity (Jeff Awards, Best Director & Best Production of a Musical) at Refuge Theatre Project, where he serves as Artistic Director. Recent credits include: The Rink, Anyone Can Whistle, City of Angels and Applause (Porchlight Revisits), Carrie (Ohio Northern University), Wicked City (Chicago Theatre Workshop), Planted (Chicago Musical Theatre Festival), Make Me a Song (Eclectic Theatre Co.), and Story of A Story (The Untold Story) (Underscore Theater Co.). Christopher is also a frequent cabaret director and curator, including Broadway’s Cult Classics at Davenport’s Piano Bar, the His & His series at Pride Films & Plays, and the New Faces Sing Broadway series at Porchlight Music Theatre, where he is a proud Artistic Associate. An openly HIV+ artist, Christopher was also a 2016 Windy City Times 30-Under-30 honoree for his contributions to Chicago’s LGBTQ community. He currently serves on the Ambassador Committee for the AIDS Run/Walk Chicago and as Chairperson on the Community Advisory Board for Howard Brown Health, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ organizations.
JEFFREY D. KMIEC^ (Co-Scenic Designer) is an award-winning Chicago-based scenic designer. Select local credits include: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Double Trouble, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Sweeney Todd and Sondheim on Sondheim (Porchlight Music Theatre), The Little Mermaid and Les Misérables (2015 and 2017 Jeff Awards — Paramount Theatre), Deathtrap (2016 Jeff Award — Drury Lane), The Bridges of Madison County (The Marriott Theatre), Butler (Northlight Theatre), Dividing the Estate and A Loss of Roses (Jeff Award Nominations – Raven Theatre), Watch on the Rhine (Jeff Award Nomination — The Artistic Home), Scarcity (Redtwist Theatre), and Don’t Go Gentle (Haven Theatre). Jeffrey received his MFA from the University of Virginia and is a member of USA 829.
GREG PINSONEAULT (Co-Scenic Designer) is a two-time Jeff Award and Broadway.com nominee. He relocated to Los Angeles last March to start a career as a Stop Motion Animation Fabricator and has worked in the art department on Robot Chicken Season 9, SuperMansion Season 3, the Spongebob Squarepants Halloween Special, as well as ad campaigns for ESPN, BarkTHINS, and Quaker Oats. Samples of his work can be found at GPScenic.com.
BILL MOREY+ (Costume Designer) is an Artistic Associate at Porchlight Music Theatre. Bill is a twelve time Jeff Award Nominee in Costume Design and has won the Equity Jeff Award for Porchlight’s productions of Nine, The King and I, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Dreamgirls. He is also the recipient of two After Dark Awards and the BroadwayWorld Chicago Award for Costume Design. His work has been seen at Theo Ubique, TimeLine, Lifeline, Piven, BoHo, and Off Broadway at the York Theater. www.billmorey.com
DENISE KARCZEWSKI (Lighting Designer) is thrilled to return to Porchlight Music Theatre after designing Billy Elliot the Musical, In The Heights, and Dreamgirls. Denise is the resident lighting designer at Black Ensemble Theatre where she received BTAA awards for her designs of Indigo Blues and One Name Only as well as an African American Arts Alliance Award for her set and lighting design of Ella: the First Lady of Song. Denise is one of the technical directors and designers at New Trier Township High School. She would like to thank Michael for the opportunity and Daryl for all his love and support. Maya, mommy loves you!
ANTHONY CHURCHILL (Projections Designer) collaborates on media for theatre, events, and installations. Recent projections and media with Marriott Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Theatre Wit, Stage Left, Museum of Broadcast Communications, Big Noise Theatre, 16th Street Theatre — Berwyn, and BoHo Theatre — where he is a proud company member. Tony has been nominated for two Jeff Awards for Projections, last season for Body of An American — for which he won the award — and in 2015 for Ordinary Days. When not working on plays, Tony enjoys sculpting tiny astronauts in peril, and playing projections with his band, Grape Juice Plus.
ROBERT HORNBOSTEL (Sound Designer) is excited to be back for his third season with Porchlight Music Theatre and this amazing team! Recent Porchlight credits include Billy Elliot the Musical, In The Heights, Dreamgirls, End Of The Rainbow, Far From Heaven, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Side Show, Porchlight Revists Babes in Arms, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Robert is a freelance composer, designer, and engineer in Chicago, including work with New Millennium Theater, Raven Theater, Eclectic Theater, First Floor Theater, Roosevelt University, and many others. Robert would like to thank his fellow designers, friends, and family for their continued support. Selections of his previous work can be found at www.TechmagicDesigns.com. Enjoy the show!
ANDREW ASHLEY HATCHER (Properties Designer/Assistant Stage Manager) is a stage manager, props designer, and general theater-maker. A recent transplant from Austin, TX, this is his second show in Chicago — following the well-received production of Becky Shaw at Windy City Playhouse. Austin-area credits include numerous award-winning shows with Salvage Vanguard Theater (where he remains a company member), Austin Playhouse, Breaking String Theater, Doctuh Mistuh Productions, Fusebox Festival, Mary Moody Northen Theatre, TexArts, Texas Performing Arts, and Trouble Puppet Theater.
MATTHEW McMULLEN* (Stage Manager) is delighted to be making his debut with Porchlight Music Theatre! Previous stage management credits include Million Dollar Quartet, Fiddler on the Roof, Route 66 (Paramount Theatre), Chicago, A Christmas Carol, Sleeping Beauty (Drury Lane Theatre), Big Fish, The 39 Steps, Nice Work If You Can Get It (Theatre at the Center), Red (Goodman Theatre), as well as work at Silk Road Rising, Chicago Children’s Theatre, and Provision Theatre Company. In addition, Matthew can be seen (from the booth) as a part-time SM for Blue Man Group Chicago. Thanks always to Missy for her long-suffering support. Proud Equity member.
MARY ZANGER* (Assistant Stage Manager)
MATT NADLER (Assistant Stage Manager) is thrilled to be back with Porchlight Music Theatre where he worked on Billy Elliot the Musical, Dreamgirls, In The Heights, The Scottsboro Boys, and Marry Me A Little. He graduated from Emerson College in 2015 with a BFA in Stage Management. Much love to his family for always supporting him in his goals.
JEANNIE LUKOW (Executive Director) is a founding member of Porchlight Music Theatre’s board of directors and served for six years as its president. She was thrilled to join the staff in September 2014 as the company’s first Executive Director. Prior to taking the helm at Porchlight, Jeannie ran Bespoke Cuisine, one of Chicago’s leading cooking party venues, which she co-founded/owned for twelve years. Before the hospitality/food business, Jeannie built a 15-year career in marketing communications, much of it spent in association management. Her most recent position was as Managing Director of Marketing Communications for the National Association of Realtors, one of the nation’s largest trade associations. She is a native Michigander and graduate of Michigan State University.
*Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in America
^Denotes members of the United Scenic Artists IATSE, the Union and Professional Association of Designers, Artists, and Craftspeople
+Denotes Porchlight Music Theatre Artistic Associate
Chicago Tribune – Chris Jones
“There is a lot of talent in the very ample ensemble.”
“Much to Enjoy.”
“In one of the most devastating moments in all of Sondheim, Franklin’s estranged wife, Beth, sings “Not a Day Goes By”… Aja Wiltshire pulls off a chill.”
“At times — many times — the show not only sounds great, but it really goes where it needs to go.”
“Neala Barron, always an actress willing to play the long game, offers a very competitive interpretation.”
“Keely Vasquez, who plays the thanklessly detestable Gussie Carnegie (the name says it all), delivers far more than this object of Sondheim hatred usually delivers.”
Chicago Sun-Times – Hedy Weiss
“Soars to new heights”
“If you plan to see just one musical this winter — and you are fearless enough to face up to the truth about the nature of success and failure, youth and age, love and resentment, loyalty and betrayal, and change of every kind — “Merrily We Roll Along” is the one to choose. It is for adults. And in many ways it is without parallel.”
“Porchlight Music Theatre’s intimate but grand-scale production of the show is infused with fierce, precision-tooled, altogether-transformative direction by Michael Weber.”
“David Fiorello is superb”
“Alternately poignant and bitterly satirical, it spares no one and captures the heartache and ambivalence in everyone.”
“The ever-remarkable Crowle knocks it out of the park with a bravura performance of “Franklin Shepard, Inc.,” a song whose technical challenges are the stuff of actors’ nightmares, and his every gesture (including putting a party sandwich in his jacket pocket) is priceless.”
“As for Barron, whose acting chops match her formidable voice, she never fails to demonstrate pure fearlessness.”
Paul Lisnek, Backstage Comcast Network Host, “Behind the Curtain,” WGNPlus.com
“Porchlight is up to its standard superb fare of show quality in Merrily We Roll Along. Voices that blend beautifully, so critical to create the “Sondheim sound,” and strong leads who carry the day and the plot. A strong ensemble surrounds the action and every one of them has moments in the spotlight which illustrates that indeed this is one talented cast. Clearly utilizing it’s new performance space to its fullest, the set is grand and used in every possible way. From the current image projections (including some that illustrated the headlines of that literal day), to the shift in images and sound that help roll the clock back on a story that unfolds from end to beginning (yes, from end to beginning is the unique way this story lays out), Merrily We Roll Along is a pleasure to watch, hear and experience. Complete with classic Sondheim songs (and typical of the Sondheim experience folks who don’t know Sondheim will say “oh, I love that song, I didn’t know it was from this show!” And they’ll say it several times!). This show rolls along merrily, and I’m glad it does, because it creates an enjoyable evening that will have many of the songs locked in your head as you merrily sing them all the way home…”
ThirdCoastReview – Lisa Trifone
“Porchlight presents a boisterous, dynamic take on a poignant story of friendship, success and the passage of time.”
“Porchlight’s production does the work good, infusing the show with a wit and energy that will have you humming along by curtain call.”
PictureThisPost.com – Amy Munice
“Porchlight yet again gives Sondheim fans a chance to relish the composer’s signature sound.”
“While the entire cast is lively, the six leads make this show especially memorable…”
“Sondheim finds solid partner in Porchlight Music Theatre”
BROADWAYWORLDCHICAGO.COM – Rachel Weinburg
“Of course, the beating heart of MERRILY comes in the roles of Frank, Charley, and Mary, and here Porchlight succeeds mightily. Jim DeSelm essays Franklin’s vocals nicely and captures the character’s affable charm, making it easy to see how he was able to sweet talk his way to big bucks in Hollywood. DeSelm could do more to lean into the more jaded, money hungry side of Frank. As written by Sondheim and book writer George Furth, Frank is supposed to be a real anti-hero: charming enough to win his friends and colleagues over, but slimy enough to be easily trapped by the promise of success. DeSelm could be yet more cynical, but he does play well the part of bewildered friend-as his Frank sees Charley and Mary slipping away, he leans fully into the desperation. Porchlight could not ask for a better performer than Matt Crowle as Charley. Crowle seems born to play the role. And though it may be trite to say so, he makes Charley’s big, harried number “Franklin Shepard Inc.” a tour de force. Crowle makes such interesting choices with vocals and dynamics in the number but also conveys Charley’s increasing frustration with a bold and mesmerizing physicality. Neala Barron’s powerhouse vocals are on stunning display as Mary, and she also nails her character’s spiral (or in this case, beginning) moment of darkness and lovesick pining for Frank. She makes Mary’s vocally complex solo numbers “Like It Was” and “Now You Know” among the highlights of the night.”
“For those looking to revisit MERRILY or to experience it for the first time (as is the case here), Porchlight’s production is a worthy chance to spend a night with these “Old Friends.””
ChicagolandMusicalTheatre.com – Patrick O’Brien
“everyone and everything onstage at the Ruth Page Center shows precisely why Porchlight Music Theatre has made a reputation as premiere Sondheim interpreters.”
Performink.com – Kelsey McGrath
“What I like most about Porchlight Musical Theatre Company is their ability to root their productions in honesty.
Merrily is another genuine, well-executed work, dripping with talent and finesse.
Merrily We Roll Along is well done, it’s entertaining, and it’s honest, and prime Porchlight work.”
SethSaith.com – Seth Akin
“There is a whole lot to like about Merrily We Roll Along, as a musical and specifically this production”
“In many ways I indeed was wowed, repeatedly, and I would expect Sondheim lovers to be similarly delighted.”
ChicagoTheatreAddict.com – Rob Bullen
FIVE OUT OF FIVE STARS
“Porchlight’s very satisfying production still hits me in the gut.” Particularly due to [Neala] Barron’s performance as Mary Flynn – the peacemaker of the trio. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a performance so brutally honest. She leaves it all out there on the Ruth Page stage. Also: her voice is a marvel.”
“Other standouts include Aja Wiltshire as Frank’s wife Beth, who has perhaps the best number in the show (“Not a Day Goes By”), but delivered in a strange and abrupt context, requiring us to empathize with a woman whom we’ve just met, yet she shares a deep history with the lead (again, an artifact of the show’s structure). DeSelm and Crowle also impress in two of the most difficult roles in the Sondheim canon…
Aaron Benham’s music direction navigates perhaps Sondheim’s trickiest score – particularly the ensemble work – with precision.”
“And Michael Weber and Christopher Pazdernik’s staging does the hard work of catapulting the action backwards without losing momentum.”
ChicagoTheatreReview – Colin Douglas
“In [Michael] Weber’s terrific production, Chicago favorite leading man, Jim DeSelm, blazes a trail across the sky, starring as Frank; the always masterful, many-talented Matt Crowle deliciously delights as Charley; and Neala Barron is magnificent, a showstopping and poignant leading lady, as Mary.”
“Other talented performers in this large cast include Aja Wiltshire as Frank’s lovely, encouraging first wife, Beth; Keely Vasquez as his theatrical second wife, Gussie Carnegie; David Fiorello as wheeler-dealer theatrical producer, Joe Josephson; and young Zachary Scott Fewkes, who’s excellent as Frank, Jr. The production also features a multitalented ensemble of more than a dozen triple threats who play multiple roles.”
“Sondheim’s score never sounded more beautiful than here, under the sensitive direction of Aaron Benham.”
“Christopher Pazdernik’s sharp musical staging allows several of the numbers to move with especial brilliance. Bill Morey’s colorful period costumes help delineate each year, as do Anthony Churchill’s projections. The Great Room scenic design, co-created by Jeffery D. Kmiec and Greg Pinsoneault, provides ample playing area for such a large company and nicely accommodates the musical’s many scenes.”
““Not a Day Goes By,” sung with great sensitivity by Aja Wiltshire, that will melt every theatergoer’s heart.”
“Once again Porchlight Music Theatre has pulled out all the stops and brought Chicago a magical production of a show that many theatergoers will be enjoying for the first time. For those musical aficionados, this will be a bittersweet blast from the past and a rare opportunity to see this masterpiece cult musical performed live in the Windy City.”
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin – Julian Frazin
“Thanks to Porchlight’s Michael Weber for continuing to bring little-seen musicals to Chicago audiences.”
AroundtheTownChicago.com – Alan Bresloff
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – FIVE OUT OF FIVE STARS
“The play is very emotional and Weber, who truly understands Sondheim gets it perfectly!”
“This version was back on Broadway in 1994 and did far better- you are seeing the best of the best!”
Chicago Reader – Dan Jakes
“GRATIFYING, STIRRING, HEART-WRENCHING”
“With Billy Elliot last October, Porchlight Music Theatre successfully scaled itself up for its new home at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, a proscenium space more demanding and imposing than its cozy Stage 773 residence of yore. This gratifying, stirring, heart-wrenching production of Stephen Sondheim’s masterful 1981 musical, directed by Michael Weber, continues that upward and outward trajectory of the theater’s scope and capability.”
Windy City Times – Scott Morgan
“So thank your lucky stars that Porchlight Music Theatre has given Merrily We Roll Along another spin in a spectacular and genuinely moving revival.”
“[Michael] Weber and his amazingly talented cast clearly love this rich and challenging material. They all nearly fill in the missing blanks of Furth’s very caustic script involving Frank’s friends like the unbearably high-minded playwright Charley Kringas ( a rightfully idiosyncratic Matt Crowle ) and the alcoholic author-turned-critic Mary Flynn ( a heartbreaking Neala Barron ).”
“Merrily We Roll Along can emotionally sucker-punch audiences, especially those who are willing to look back at the missteps of their youth. Be thankful that Porchlight is giving Merrily We Roll Along another well-deserved chance to share its many musical glories.”
TheFourthWalsh.com – Katy Walsh
“Porchlight masterfully merrily rolls this one out. Director Michael Weber has cast solid principals in DeSelm, Barron, and Crowle. Through song and banter, the trio deliver honest and poignant portrayals of their characters’ transformations. The vivacious Vasquez, perky Aja Wiltshire (Beth) and huge cracker-jack ensemble keep us tethered to the ever-moving story.”
“Porchlight is the perfect company to stage this mega theatrical spectacle of drama meets musical.”