Starring Doug, Debbie and Chita Rivera, as well as young actors Nathan Lane and Christian Slater, the lavish show received five Tony nominations, including Best Musical. The show also broke a Broadway record for setting the one-week box office record at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, earning $421,000.
On January 30, 1983, after six years and with a reported budget of $4 million, Merlin unofficially opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre. With a book by Richard Levinson and William Link, (both of whom would go on the acclaim and television producers and writers, and are probably best known for creating the TV detective Columbo), lyrics by Don Black (who would later win two Tony awards for Sunset Boulevard, a collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Webber.) and music by Academy Award winning composer Elmer Bernstein. After constant re-writes and endless improvements, Merlin managed to officially run from February 13, 1983 to August 7, 1983, with previews it was a total of nine months.
According to Jim Steinmeyer, who worked on the show, "Everything [changed]. Mostly we put more magic in, but the book and music also changed a lot. Characters, dances. Fortunately, they liked the magic, so it wasn't always hard for us, but it always felt like we were dodging land mines."
"It's a shame that the show wasn't more successful. It wasn't quite the flop that legend will have it."
- Hiding the Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer