Merrily We Roll Along

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“How did you get there from here, Mr. Shepard? How did you get to be you?” The story of Franklin Shepard isn’t really all that exciting. In fact, its actually pretty depressing! What makes Merrily We Roll Along by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth so intriguing to its audiences is how the story is told: from the end to the very beginning. This unusual method of storytelling makes for complex character arcs within main characters Frank, Charlie, and Mary. The adaptive set and simplistic costumes in Ball State’s production of Merrily We Roll Along emphasized the characters and their transformation throughout the show, making a possibly confusing story easy for the audience to follow. Merrily has an episodic plot structure because it is character…show more content…
Yoder’s set design, Katelynn Barker kept the costumes very simple and clear. On the bottom all the characters wore very plain, decade appropriate pants and skirts, aside from Gussie who wore crazy metallic pants that were almost as obnoxious as her attitude. On top, every character wore a plain black, or in one instance white, t-shirt that had a version of their name on it. The use of the t-shirts is very clever and helps out the audience so much! As we see the story unfold backwards the characters’ relationships change, and so do the shirts. For example, Gussie at the beginning of the show has a t-shirt that reads “Ex Mrs. Shepard,” then wears one that says “Mrs. Shepard” when she is married to Frank, then one that just says Gussie, and lastly one that reads “Secretary” at the end before she became a Hollywood and Broadway starlet. The t-shirts not only helped the audience track the changes within the main characters but also helped distinguish the multiple characters each ensemble member played. The shirts save the audience from confusion; however, Ball State cannot claim the idea their own. The original Broadway production of Merrily featured the name tag t-shirts but it is an element that the subsequent revivals and most community and school productions choose to leave out. Elliot’s decision to keep the t-shirts makes the end much more powerful. The ending of the show (beginning of the story) becomes a very beautiful moment when the main characters and the whole ensemble comes on with blank t-shirts and starry eyes, before any destruction and corruption has occurred in their

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