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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Movie Review - Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (2016)
Directed by Lonny Price
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

In September of 1981, rehearsals began for the Broadway musical Merrily We Roll Along, the latest from stage superstars director Hal Prince and composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim.  Fresh off a string of huge hits -- Company, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd -- it seemed as if Prince and Sondheim could do no wrong so their tackling of musicalizing a 1934 play that went in reverse seemed a perfect next act for the duo.  Casting teenagers in roles that required them to play adults in the opening scene and then progressively reverse to their high school selves in the final scene where they'd dream about their ambitious lives ahead  unaware of the jaded people they'd become, Prince and Sondheim thought they were creating something ingenious.  Instead, Merrily We Roll Along was an epic failure, closing after just sixteen performances on Broadway.  The "gods" of Broadway had failed and that failure profoundly affected the young cast of actors who set out to a variety of careers realizing that the failure was the Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened.

Director Lonny Price who as a teenager snagged a lead role in Merrily We Roll Along breaks his documentary up into what are essentially two halves -- the first detailing the intricacies of attempting to put on a Broadway show and the second dealing with the lives of the cast of Merrily following its failure.  The first half is infinitely more intriguing than the second.  While some went on to great things on stage and screen -- Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame was a member of the Merrily cast -- others went on to a typical life away from the bright lights of entertainment.  Obviously there's nothing wrong with that, but there's admittedly something not all that compelling about such things.  After a fascinating insider look at the creation of a musical utilizing much footage from rehearsal rooms, this documentary's last act is a bit of a letdown.

While I'm a certainly a fan of "the theater," I'm not exactly all that knowledgable about Stephen Sondheim beyond a few songs or shows, but despite that lack of connection with one of the film's main subjects, I found the first hour of this film quite compelling.  Quite frankly, you could watch the film up until that point and get just as much out of it as watching the whole thing.  What works here works well.  What doesn't work here doesn't so much "not work," but simply falls flat.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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