The Donmar Warehouse's much-anticipated revival of Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, directed by Michael Grandage, opens tonight (previews from 1 December 2000) at the theatre, where it continues to 3 March 2001.

Set in 1980, Merrily We Roll Along tells the story of celebrated songwriter and film producer, Franklin Shepard. Presented in reverse chronological order, the musical follows Shepard's descent from idealistic youth into wayward and greedy middle age, while also chronicling the dissolution of his showbiz friendships. The score includes "Not a Day Goes By", "Our Time" and "Old Friends".

When the musical opened on Broadway in 1981, it was savaged by the critics and closed after a matter of weeks. Since then, it has slowly been reclaimed as a classic. Following its London premiere at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1983, Merrily We Roll Along received a high-profile regional outing, starring Maria Friedman, at the Leicester Haymarket in 1992.

In the same year, the Donmar reopened under the directorship of Sam Mendes with a revival of Sondheim's Assasins. The theatre has also staged award-winning productions of the composer's Company and Into the Woods. Grandage, an associate director at the Donmar, has recently directed revivals of Peter Nichols' Passion Play and CP Taylor's Good at the theatre.

Merrily We Roll Along stars Daniel Evans, Julian Ovenden and Samantha Spiro who are joined in the cast by Matt Blair, Lucy Bradshaw, Anna Francolini, Neil Gordon, Dean Hassain, David Lucas, James Millard, Zehra Naqvi, Grant Russell, Mary Stockley, Emma Jay Thomas and Shona White.

Inspired by a 1934 play by George S Kaufman and Moss Hart, Merrily We Roll Along features music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by George Furth. The Donmar production is designed by Christopher Oram, with lighting by Tim Mitchell, sound by Fergus O'Hare, choreography by Peter Darling, musical direction by Gareth Valentine and new orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick.