In 1981, Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince were the kings of Broadway. After a decade of shows from Company to Sweeney Todd that reinvented the American musical form, they were embarking on another venture: Merrily We Roll Along. Things didn’t go as planned.
Directed by Lonny Price, one of the original cast members, Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened is the up-close account of one of Broadway’s most infamous flops. It’s opening this week in limited release and will probably show up on PBS soon. My review from the New York Film Festival is at PopMatters:
At first, Price makes Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened something of a personal essay, describing with enthusiastic panache his obsessive love of the form in general and these practitioners in specific. Then he broadens the circle, marrying rehearsal footage of other cast members like Tonya Pinkins and Jason Alexander (eight years before he won a Tony and nine before appearing in Seinfeld) with new interviews. One actor remembers, “You felt like you were witnessing history.” That about sums up the type of enthusiasm that Price delivers here…
Here’s the trailer: