Nearly 40 years on from its first disastrous performances, Stephen Sondheim’s musical Merrily We Roll Along is now rehabilitated in a revised form and set to be turned into a film later this year.

That it’s a superbly crafted work was abundantly demonstrated in the powerful and polished student production last week.

Here was revealed not only the impressive talents of those on stage but also the band’s tight control of a sometimes difficult score under musical director Math Roberts, and arresting visuals from set designer Mallika Gray and Will Hayman (lighting).

Focused on the world of the musical stage, the show (with book by George Furth) illustrates how youthful ambitions and artistic integrity can fall victim to harsher realities in a world of getting and spending.

The action is gripping from the outset in a series of spectacular outbursts at a swanky Los Angeles party for a movie premiere. These involve the pleased-with-himself producer Frank (Emilio Campa), his brittle wife Gussie (Grace Albery), his new star and squeeze Meg (Maggie Moriarty) and long-time critic pal Mary (Maddy Page), very much the worse for drink.

How did it come to this? you wonder. And, as time rolls backwards, taking us from 1976 to 1955, we steadily find out what has brought these characters from days of hope to such a sorry pass.

A principal interest lies in the working – actually it’s non-working – relationship between Frank and writing partner Charley (Joe Winter). While the former wallows in fame and its trappings, his collaborator continues to dream of fashioning great art together.

In a perceptive programme note, the director Samuel Woof MacColl writes of the show’s special relevance to student performers, with its message: cling on to what is important. How right he is.