‘Merrily We Roll Along’ Film Adaptation to Shoot Over 20-Year Span


Leigh Bauer

Something is stirring and shifting ground! On Aug. 29, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Ben Platt (Tony award winner for “Dear Evan Hansen”), Beanie Feldstein (“Lady Bird,” “Booksmart”) and Blake Jenner (“Glee”) will star in a movie adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s golden age musical, “Merrily We Roll Along.” The movie will film over the course of 20 years, as the stars age along with their characters. It will be directed by Richard Linklater, who shot his 2014 film “Boyhood” in the same style.


“I first saw and fell in love with ‘Merrily’ in the ‘80s, and I can’t think of a better place to spend the next 20 years than in the world of a [Stephen] Sondheim musical. I don’t enter this multi-year experience lightly, but it seems the best, perhaps the only way, to do this story justice on film,” Linklater said in a statement released with the movie’s announcement. 

View this post on Instagram

No, I’m not a snack at all Look, baby, I’m the whole damn meal!!!!!!!!!

A post shared by Beanie Feldstein (@beaniefeldstein) on

Kevin Prunty, a senior Film and Screen Studies major, is uncertain about the necessity of filming the movie in real time. “It’s a really cool concept, but difficult to achieve like they did with ‘Boyhood’…It’s cool as a niche idea but there are so many practical ways to get around it nowadays. With ‘Boyhood’ that was the highlight, not the film itself. It was the main point they were making with the film. Cooler in concept than the reality of it,” Prunty stated.

“I think it’s a cop-out to do it over 20 years. It’s a fine musical, but that doesn’t really add anything,” senior BA Acting major Sophia Carlin said. “It’s very immersed in the times, the ’70s, so doing it over time overcomplicates it.”

In an interview with indiewire.com, Platt detailed the filming schedule, revealing that the first scenes have already been filmed: “We did the first sequence this summer, and the idea is to follow the schematic of the show literally, in the sense that if there’s a scene that takes place in ‘57 and one in ‘61, we’ll wait four years and shoot the next one. So we’re corresponding with the map of the show. Other than that, it’s sort of like — ‘let’s get together and make a short film’ — and then disperse, and do that nine times.”

Senior Directing major Yoni Weiss, a self-proclaimed “diehard Sondheim fan,” hopes that the style of filming helps elevate and improve the musical’s story, “I think shooting the movie in real time is a gimmick, but a gimmick that could finally solve the issues ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ has had since its inception. I only hope that the decision to film in this manner is strongly focused on the important themes within the text, not just used to get around aging the performers with makeup.”

Weiss continues, “Of course with any adaptation, I have my concerns, my favorite moments that I would never want to see changed, and questions about execution, but until I see the film my anxieties aren’t criticism, just a manifestation of love and protection of the property.”

With the recent influx of adaptations in all forms of media, one can only hope that as “time goes by and hopes go dry,” this new adaptation of “Merrily We Roll Along” can stand out from the crowd and go from a golden age hit to a modern-day hit.