It took Richard Linklater 12 years to make Boyhood, and now he wants to up his game. The filmmaker is said to be putting together a film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along that will take 20 years to complete. Linklater has lined up Ben Platt and Beanie Feldstein to star in the story of a Broadway composer who abandons his theatre career to make movies in Hollywood. Linklater’s 20-year production is no doubt a bold idea, but one wonders what type of dystopian hellscape we’ll all be living in 20 years from now, and whether or not we’ll be in the mood to go see a Richard Linklater musical then.
Collider broke the news about Richard Linklater’s audacious plan to make a Merrily We Roll Along movie. First staged on Broadway in 1981, the musical featured a book by George Furth and lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim and was based on a 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman. Furth and Sondheim’s version set the story between 1957 to 1976. Linklater, in turn, reportedly wants to take that almost 20-year time setting literally, and produce his film adaptation over a 20-year period.
The plot of the musical follows “Franklin Shepard who, having once been a talented composer of Broadway musicals, has now abandoned his friends and his songwriting career to become a producer of Hollywood movies.” The beginning of the play starts in 1976, when Shepard is at the height of his Hollywood career, and then moves backward in time to show how the character got where he is. Because of this backward-moving story, Linklater is going to have to shoot the film in reverse chronological order, when his cast is younger. This is the reverse of Boyhood, which showed the actors aging before us as the years ticked on.
From a storytelling standpoint, this is an incredibly bold idea, and I commend Linklater’s audacity. At the same time, the pessimist in me can’t help but wonder if we’ll all even be alive in 20 years. The way things are going, with political tensions boiling over as the planet continues to heat up, I’m just picturing this movie opening in a theater nestled in some sort of terrible wasteland that looks identical to that of Mad Max: Fury Road. On top of that, what will Linklater do if one of his cast members gets bored with this project, or unfortunately dies? It just sounds like a logistical nightmare, and while I don’t envy Linklater’s task, I can’t help but be impressed at his willingness to take such a wild risk. Anyway, see you in 20 years, I guess.
You can listen to the 2012 New York cast recording of Merilly We Roll Along, which features Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, below.
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