Inside the Filming of Broadway's Merrily We Roll Along

Inside the Filming of Broadway's Merrily We Roll Along

The widely successful Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along is receiving the pro-shot treatment this week at its Broadway home, the Hudson Theatre. While savvy theater fans noticed filming notices on the street next to the Hudson Theatre indicating filming would take place on the Monday following the Tony Awards — where the show won four awards — that's not the full story of what is happening this week at Broadway's Hudson.

Spanning three decades in the entertainment business, Merrily We Roll Along charts the turbulent relationship between composer Franklin Shepard and his two lifelong friends — writer Mary and lyricist & playwright Charley. An inventive, cult classic ahead of its time, Merrily We Roll Along features some of Stephen Sondheim’s most celebrated and personal songs. After a failed Broadway production in 1981, the musical had a successful West End revival in 2013, which finally gave the show the success it had sought all those years.

Interest in filming the production for a commercial release sparked as soon as the show began its run off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2022. Unlike most Broadway productions aiming to profit from a filmed performance, Merrily's journey is an easy one — its leading trio includes a mega star who could easily help sell the idea of a pro-shot to potential distributors. The added success of the production only fueled what started as an idea back in 2022.

Producer Sonia Friedman was also very vocal about her desire to capture this specific piece, although she had already released a film of the same production in 2013. That original production was only released for a short time through Digital Theatre, not due to rights issues, but mostly due to Sonia's belief that the production would eventually get to Broadway and just needed the right timing. Although the recording was taken off the streaming site that was offering it, it continued to live on certain popular video sites and only fueled the interest in a future Broadway revival.

Fast forward to 2024, and with the announcement of a (final) extension to the Broadway run of Merrily, and with Sonia's desire to not re-cast the show and close it with the original three leads, the idea of filming the show began circulating again among interested potential distributers.

RadicalMedia, the production company behind such hits as Hamilton, Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway, American Utopia, and Oh Hello on Broadway, all sold to major streaming services, was a no-brainer from the get-go as the A-list production company to film the hit revival. Steam Motion and Sound, which primarily shoots West End musicals (with the exception of the recent Waitress: The Musical), was a close second option.

While the filming can't be hidden anymore from the outside world, as filming notices have to be posted around the theater notifying theatergoers they will be filmed and their audio and audiovisual content might be used in the final product, producer Sonia Friedman is still able to keep her plans for the recording under wraps. What is actually going on behind the scenes is a fierce bidding war between interested distributors of the final product, with no final distributor named at this point.

Merrily producers are also no longer hiding the fact that the show is being filmed in press interviews, in part to fuel that bidding war and spark more interest in the final product together with the show winning four Tony Awards last Sunday. A leading candidate is rumored to be Apple TV+, which also distributed RadicalMedia's Come From Away pro-shot in 2021.

With the production closing early next month, and with the distributor trying to bank on the spike in interest in the production thanks to its recent Tony Awards buzz and its stars, expect the release of the film to be in the next couple of months, and not years.

Merrily We Roll Along features music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, a book by George Furth, and is based on the original play by George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart.