Unrealistic Hollywood Friendships Busted by Broadway Hit – Shocking Truth Revealed!

The opening act of “Merrily We Roll Along,” a musical created by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth, which is currently experiencing a triumphant comeback on Broadway, explores the essence of old friendships. According to Frank (played by Jonathan Groff), “Old friends live and let live, while good friends expose your falsehoods.” Mary (portrayed by Lindsay Mendez) concurs, stating, “Old friends offer love and forgiveness whereas good friends provide advice and approval.”

Charley (Daniel Radcliffe) similarly values the potency of enduring friendships, utilizing it as a mirror, reflecting the true identities of each friend, even in the face of disagreements.

This is the central tension and conflict of the play. The musical, based on a play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, tells the story in reverse of how a long and deeply fulfilling friendship between three creatives – Frank, a composer, Charley, a lyricist, and Mary, a novelist – disintegrated.

Spoiler alert: The world of Hollywood is the culprit. (Did I mention the play is set on Broadway?)

Well, not so much Hollywood itself, but rather the concept of success. Or a particular kind of success. As the play begins, Frank is portrayed as a leading Hollywood producer, being honored at his extravagant Hollywood residence. Mary is present, humorously and progressively inebriatedly criticizing the superficiality of the attendees (Kaufman and Hart allegedly modeled her after Dorothy Parker). However, when Charley’s name is brought up, Frank becomes uncomfortable. In the past, he and Charley were a successful duo on Broadway; Charley is still producing plays, but their communication has ceased.

The personal sacrifice that accompanies soaring success is a recurring theme in human narratives, from Greek mythology (think Icarus) to TV shows like “Succession.” However, “Merrily” is primarily about friendship, with Charley trying to keep Frank grounded to his musical talents and youthful ideals despite Frank’s clear pursuit of wealth, power, and glamour. Meanwhile, Mary navigates between them, trying to preserve their bond.

What leaves a deeper impression than the stellar performances or captivating score is “Merrily’s” complex portrayal of friendship.

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Frank’s and Charley’s divergent interpretations of friendship counterbalance our culture’s often overly sentimental and simplistic depiction of this bond. Hollywood, even more so than Broadway, has romanticized friendship to the point where not maintaining a connection with everyone you met in your early years can feel like a failure.

While romantic love continues to dominate our narratives, adult friendship is gaining ground. Not far from New York’s Theater District, fans can immerse themselves in “The Friends Experience,” take the “Sex and the City” tour, or even dine at “Seinfeld’s” Tom’s Restaurant.

Shows like these, as well as more recent ones like “New Girl,” “Insecure,” and “Girls,” portray friendships in a different light than “Merrily.” Echoing films like “The Big Chill” and “St. Elmo’s Fire,” they depict friendships formed in early adulthood as unshakeable bonds, as romantic as any fairytale love story.

As newer generations navigate friendships in the digital age (is a follower a friend?), our cultural narrative still insists that true friendships last forever.

That’s not to say that enduring friendships aren’t worth celebrating — I saw “Merrily” with a cherished friend of 40 years, with whom my 17-year-old daughter and I were staying for the week. (Now that’s friendship.)

However, idealizing friendships can set unrealistic expectations. Not all friendships are designed to last forever, and those that do often require a lot of effort.

The musical’s discussion about the nature of “Old Friends” raises issues that many of us have grappled with, often without the proper vocabulary. What constitutes a real friendship? Time? Proximity? Shared aspirations and dreams?

“I’ll be there for you” is a comforting thought, but what does it really mean? Does it mean supporting your friend no matter what or challenging them when they’re about to make a mistake?

Shared memories can weave a strong bond, but sometimes when one person chooses a different path, it can feel like a betrayal, especially for friendships formed during our youth. What is the balance between expectation and forgiveness needed to keep a friendship alive and thriving? How does this balance shift as we grow older?

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My daughter and I shared a glance when the characters in “Merrily” mentioned the schools they were attending or had just graduated from — Juilliard, Columbia, Barnard. We were visiting New York to tour colleges, which also meant my daughter was contemplating leaving not only her family but also her close-knit group of friends from elementary school. Her first impression of each campus we visited was whether the students seemed friendly. (I did point out that friendliness might be expressed differently in New York than in L.A.)

She will soon experience the strain that distance and maturity can put on childhood friendships, while forming new ones with all the excitement and potential pitfalls that come with it.

I hope she will continue to surround herself with people who encourage her to explore the world and stay with her throughout the journey. The kind of friend who, even after 40 years, will accommodate you and your child for a week and accompany you to a Broadway musical she has already seen, just to share the experience with you.

But, as I’ve told her and all my children, “Friends” is a TV show — it’s not common for people to hang out with the same small group for a decade, just as it’s not typical for young adults to afford spacious apartments with exposed brick walls. And that’s perfectly okay.

Life circumstances change — people form romantic relationships, have children, and make choices that may seem to diverge from their youthful dreams.

In “Merrily,” Frank is portrayed as the antagonist — his pursuit of fame and wealth has led to the dissolution of two marriages and the neglect of his core friendship. However, Charley’s demand for Frank to remain the same person they knew when they were both penniless and struggling, and Mary’s desperate attempts to salvage their friendship, are equally problematic.

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More than anything, love of any kind requires a great deal of forgiveness, and not all “truth-telling” is about honesty.

The expectation that friendship can overcome anything, that we will always be supported by a group of lifelong friends, can create as much stress as it’s supposed to alleviate.

Friendships can weaken or simply fade over time. Not all bonds withstand the test of time or change, and even the most solid friendships can experience periods of stagnation. People don’t have to be constantly in each other’s company to avoid loneliness, and solitude isn’t always a negative.

Friends are wonderful beings, individuals we love not because of familial or marital obligations, but simply because we do. There isn’t a recipe for lasting friendship aside from the desire and willingness to keep it alive and healthy. Like any type of love, you recognize it when you feel it. And you continue to feel it.

Regardless of anything else.

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