All About ‘Merrily We Roll Along’: The Movie Musical Adaptation Starring Ben Platt and Beanie Feldstein Coming in 20 Years or So

Merrily We Roll Along is one of Stephen Sondheim’s most famous Broadway musicals, despite the sour reviews from critics and audiences alike that first met the show back in 1981. Though the score was widely praised, the story and themes were deemed problematic, and the Broadway production ran for 16 performances before the final curtain call. However, some critics stood out from the bunch, praising the work, and the show has since seen a few different revivals — with adaptations to suit the times, as well as the taste of an ever-changing and contemporary audience. 

Ben Platt and Beanie Feldstein
Ben Platt (R) and Beanie Feldstein Frazer Harrison / Staff

The story behind ‘Merrily We Roll Along’

The musical is based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The narrative centers on Franklin Shepard who, having once led a life as a talented composer of Broadway musicals, has since abandoned the Great White Way. He leaves friends and family in his dust to become a hotshot Hollywood producer. Like any Sondheim work, the lyrics are fraught with tragedy, regret, reflection, misunderstanding, internal conflict, falls from grace, and more. 

Merrily We Roll Along contains several of Sondheim’s most famous songs. From Not a Day Goes By to Old Friends and Now You Know, the show remains a pinnacle of the lyricist/composer’s career, yet lacks some of the fanfare tied to Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, and Sunday in the Park with George. Though Merrily We Roll Along remains a fixture in the minds of Sondheim fans, director Richard Linklater plans to bring the story and the song to a larger audience via the silver screen. 

‘Merrily We Roll Along’ to be directed by Richard Linklater 

Richard Linklater will direct Merrily We Roll Along over the course of 20 years. Since the man is famous for Boyhood — a film that took place over 12 years — one can presume he’s grown accustomed to spanning out a production for realism and impact. 

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Since the show takes place over two decades, Linklater is aiming for the utmost level of realism. He will allow his stars to age — their appearances, voices, disposition, and more should mature in-tandem with the characters. Is Linklater planning to take home a few more Oscars? 

Who is starring in ‘Merrily We Roll Along,’ and what has been accomplished thus far? 

Blake Jenner is set to star as leading man Frank; Beanie Feldstein will play Mary (Frank’s old friend and a theatre critic) and Ben Platt will play Charlie. Blake Jenner is best known for starring in Glee, What/If, The Edge of Seventeen, and more. Ben Platt played the lead character in the original Broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen and can currently be seen starring in Netflix’s The Politician. Beanie Feldstein rose to A-list status after starring in Booksmart and Ladybird, yet she has also appeared in How to Build a Girl, and What We Do in the Shadows. 

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According to Playbill, the first part of filming has already been completed, likely creating a gap in time before the main actors will return to the studio to film later portions in the narrative.