More Sondheim at Cincinnati Playhouse

For the ninth time during Ed Stern’s tenure at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, a show by Stephen Sondheim will be presented. Stern, the Playhouse’ Producing Artistic Director, has a soft spot for the great American composer and lyricist who turned 80 a year ago. He will bring back Tony Award-winning director John Doyle (pictured) to stage Merrily We Roll Along in a production that uses actors who also provide the musical accompaniment. The show will be presented next year in March.—-

“It’s such a pleasure to bring back Stephen Sondheim and John Doyle, with his use of actor musicianship for this production,” Stern says.

The Playhouse will soon announce the entire 2011-2012 season, Stern’s last for the renowned Cincinnati theater. In August last year, Stern (who is battling cancer) announced he will retire in June 2012 after 20 years with the Playhouse.

Doyle came to Cincinnati in 2006 not long after his actor-musician production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd opened on Broadway, following an award-winning run in London. That year he staged a remarkable revival of another Sondheim hit, Company, for the Playhouse. The production moved to Broadway intact and won a Tony Award for the season’s best revival.

“I am thrilled to be returning to the Playhouse in the Park, and with a Sondheim show,” says Doyle, who was most recently in Cincinnati to stage a new production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters in 2009.

“I am also honored,” he adds, “to have been invited to be part of Ed Stern’s farewell season.”

Merrily We Roll Along had a brief Broadway run in 1981 and, despite a much admired score, has long been considered a Sondheim flop. It’s the story of a jaded composer and his two closest friends that is told in reverse chronology, from their estranged end to their idealistic beginning. The show’s musical numbers include “Old Friends” and “Not a Day Goes By.”

Tickets for Merrily We Roll Along will go on sale Aug. 15.

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