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SONDHEIM ON A ROLL WITH 2 MUSICALS

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Composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim has followed up the Broadway success of his new Tony Award-winning musical, "Passion," with a successful off-Broadway rewrite of his 13-year-old "Merrily We Roll Along."

"Merrily" opened at the St. Peter's Church theater in the midtown Citicorp Center just in time to cash in on the publicity given "Passion," which won the Tony award for best musical, beating out Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" earlier this month.The revival received enthusiastic critical reviews, all noting that the show had been "reborn" or "re-energized."

"I think we've finally got it right," commented George Furth, who wrote the book for "Merrily," which ran only 16 performances when it opened on Broadway in 1981. "After all, the show has been resurrected six times."

"Merrily," which ended the collaboration of Sondheim and director Harold Prince, was not a complete loss. Such hit songs as "Old Friends" and "Good Things Going" and the haunting ballad, "Not A Day Goes By," were rescued from the score and recorded by such artists as Frank Sinatra, Carly Simon, and Liza Minnelli.

Furth kept rewriting the book for half a dozen regional theater revivals.

Sondheim has contributed three new songs.

"Merrily We Roll Along" is based on a 1934 comedy by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.