Road Show (musical)
|(previously titled Bounce)|
Album cover of original version
|Productions||2003 Chicago, Washington, DC
2011 West End
Road Show (previously titled Bounce, and before that Wise Guys and Gold!) is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by John Weidman. It tells the story of Addison Mizner and his brother Wilson Mizner's adventures across America from the beginning of the 20th century during the Alaskan Gold rush to the Florida real estate boom in the 1920s.
After a 1999 workshop in New York City, the musical was produced in Chicago and Washington, D.C. in 2003 under the title Bounce, but it did not achieve much success. A revised version of the musical premiered Off-Broadway in New York in October 2008.
The musical premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop from October through November 1999 under the title Wise Guys. It was directed by Sam Mendes and starred Nathan Lane and Victor Garber as brothers Addison Mizner and Wilson Mizner. A legal case involving Scott Rudin and Weidman and Sondheim held up further production.
Substantially rewritten and retitled Bounce, the show opened on June 20, 2003 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. The production was directed by Harold Prince, with choreography by Michael Arnold, set design by Eugene Lee, costume design by Miguel Angel Huidor, and lighting design by Howell Binkley The cast starred Richard Kind (Addison Mizner), Howard McGillin (Wilson Mizner), Jane Powell (Mama Mizner), Herndon Lackey (Papa Mizner/Businessman/Englishman/Plantation Owner/Armstrong/Real Estate Owner), Gavin Creel (Hollis Bessemer), and Michele Pawk (Nellie).
The musical then ran at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in October and November 2003 with the Chicago cast. It received mixed–to–negative reviews and was not produced in New York. A private reading of Bounce was held at the Public Theater on February 6, 2006. Playbill reported that Eric Schaeffer directed, with Richard Kind and Bernadette Peters among the cast.
A new production of the musical, titled Road Show, rewritten without an intermission and without the leading female character of Nellie (who had been added for 2003 production), opened Off-Broadway at The Public Theater's Newman Theater in previews on October 28, 2008, officially opening on November 18, and closing December 28, 2008. John Doyle was the director and designer, with Michael Cerveris and Alexander Gemignani playing brothers Wilson and Addison Mizner respectively, Alma Cuervo as Mama, Claybourne Elder as Hollis, and William Parry as Papa. This production won the 2009 Obie Award for Music and Lyrics. and the Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Lyrics (Sondheim).
The title changes reflect the creators' attempts to hone the show's story and themes. "Ideally the title is connected to what we hope the show is about," Weidman says.
The musical opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory, London in previews on June 24, 2011, officially on July 6 and closed on September 18. John Doyle was the director and designer, with a cast featuring Michael Jibson, David Bedella and Jon Robyns.
The US Regional premier opened at Stages Repertory Theater in Houston, TX on May 22, 2013, directed by Kenn McLaughlin. The cast featured Tom Frey and L. Jay Meyer playing brothers Wilson and Addison Mizner respectively, Susan Shofner as Mama, Jimmy Phillips as Papa, and Michael McClure as Hollis. Cameron Bautsch, Bridget Bierne, Hunter Frederick, Sarah Myers, Amanda Parker, Amanda Passanante, Tom Prior and Brandon Whitley round out the cast.
In the workshop, titled "Wise Guys," the show was framed as a vaudeville act, with Wilson and Addison opening the show with the title song, in the style of Vaudeville comics, a theme that recurred over the show. There was an additional song for Mama Mizner called 'Brothers,' and a song for Wilson titled 'Stay Right Where You Are' in which he seduces his future wife. Addison had a song in act two sung to a sick Wilson called "Make it Through the Night." This version dealt with Addison's real-life business partner Paris Singer. However, the writers soon decided to deal more openly with Addison's sexuality, and since Singer was heterosexual, Sondheim and Weidman invented the character of Hollis Bessemer. The Vaudeville concept was eventually dropped.
In the later stage version titled "Bounce," the character of Wilson's wife was developed into a secondary lead called Nellie. Wilson first meets her in a saloon in Alaska, where she seduces him with the song "What's Your Rush." They reencounter each other in New York, Nellie having become rich on the brother's gold claim, and they marry after the song 'The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened.' She divorces him, however, when his enterprises interfere with their love life. The brothers meet her again in Florida where she joins in the Boca Raton scheme. After this fails, she leaves with Hollis to find her next opportunity. In 'Road Show,' her character was again reduced to Wilson's marriage to her in Act I.
For 'Road Show,' Sondheim rewrote the opening number 'Bounce' as 'Waste,' to reflect a darker tone, added an additional song 'Brotherly Love' for the brothers, and rewrote 'The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened' as a duet for Addison and Hollis.
After the death of Addison Mizner, people who knew him, including his estranged lover Hollis Bessemer, comment on his life and the way he squandered his talents ("Waste"). Addison's brother Wilson appears and speaks to Addison, who angrily claims that Wilson was the cause of all his failures. Wilson brushes off Addison's anger and reminds him of the days when they were a team. The time shifts to Papa Mizner's death at the beginning of the 20th century. On his deathbed, Papa Mizner charges his sons with the task of using their gifts to shape America ("It's In Your Hands Now"), telling them that there's a "road" for them to follow. Mama Mizner tells the brothers that their family's wealth has been eaten away by Papa's long illness and advises them to seek gold in Alaska; Addison is reluctant, but goes along with Wilson anyway ("Gold!").
In Alaska, the brothers share a sleeping bag and reminisce about their childhood ("Brotherly Love"). Wilson leaves to get supplies while Addison works the claim; away from Addison, Wilson is lured into a game of poker, which he is initially bad at but masters quickly. Addison comes to find him, and is shocked to discover that his brother has become a gambler. Wilson tries to explain his newfound love of taking risks regardless of what's at stake ("The Game"), and Addison is almost convinced, but when Wilson stakes their gold claim in a poker game and wins the saloon in which the game is taking place, the shade of Papa Mizner appears and tells Addison that this was not what he had in mind for his sons.
Addison leaves in disgust with his share of Wilson's winnings and travels around the world searching for business opportunities and a sense of purpose ("Addison's Trip"). All of his ventures fail due to bad luck, and he is left with nothing but a collection of souvenirs—but the souvenirs inspire him to take up architecture (so that he can design a house in which to show them off). Meanwhile, Wilson's businesses in Alaska have failed, and he comes south in the hopes of getting help from Addison. Addison has only just begun to practice as an architect, and Wilson seduces and marries his first client, a rich widow, and fritters away her money on various flashy endeavours, including promoting fixed boxing matches and horse races ("That Was A Year"). Although Wilson's various partners lose out by being associated with him, they remain fond of him because of the verve and energy with which he lives. Even Mama Mizner, who is being looked after by Addison and never receives any visits from Wilson, enjoys reading about Wilson's exploits, saying that she can live through him ("Isn't He Something!"). Only Addison remains uncharmed by Wilson, and when Wilson finally comes back, his resources exhausted, intending to ask Addison for help, he finds that Mama has died in his absence. Addison angrily throws Wilson out of the house.
Later, there is a land boom in Florida ("Land Boom!"). Addison decides to travel to Palm Beach to take advantage of the many rich people settling there who will be needing to have houses built. On the train he meets Hollis Bessemer, with whom he is instantly smitten. Hollis explains his situation: he is the son of a wealthy industrialist, but he has been cut off by his father for refusing to enter the family business. His real passion is art, and although he is not himself talented enough to become an artist, he dreams of creating an artists' colony in Palm Beach with the help of his aunt, who is staying there in a hotel ("Talent").
Hollis and Addison arrive at Palm Beach, and Addison shows Hollis's aunt a plan for a house he proposes to build for her. Impressed, she agrees and offers to sponsor Hollis's artists' colony. However, Hollis and Addison, now lovers, are too busy designing resort homes for the rich ("You") and enjoying each other's company ("The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened") to follow up on Hollis's original plan—until Wilson arrives at Hollis and Addison's house, destitute and sick ("The Game [Reprise]"). Addison reluctantly takes him in, and when Wilson has recovered he begins to work on Hollis, persuading him to be a patron to his newest scheme: to build a brand-new city in Boca Raton with Wilson as promoter and Addison as chief architect ("Addison's City").
But Wilson's conman instincts resurge, and he promotes the Boca Raton real estate scheme with increasingly extravagant and eventually fraudulent claims, creating a price bubble ("Boca Raton"). Addison goes along with this, and it is Hollis who finally puts a stop to both the real estate scheme. He asks Addison choose between him and Willie, and Addison, brought to a state of desperation by all that has happened, drives Hollis away by telling him that he had never loved him. Addison tells Wilson to get out of his life ("Get Out"), but Wilson responds by saying that Addison doesn't actually want Wilson to go because he loves him too much ("Go"). Addison admits that he does love Wilson, but he still wants him to go. Wilson finally leaves for good.
But not quite, for in the finale (returning to the first scene) all the characters leave the stage except for Wilson and Addison, and Wilson realises that he, too, has died. They bicker halfheartedly but their differences no longer mattering enough to keep them apart. Confronted by their father, they shrug off his criticisms and the brothers set out together on the road to eternity—or, as Wilson calls it, "the greatest opportunity of all." "Sooner or later," he says "We're bound to get it right."
§ In Chicago production, not in Kennedy Center
- As presented in 2008 as Road Show, performed in one act
- Waste – Full Company
- It's in Your Hands Now – Papa
- Gold! – Full Company
- Brotherly Love – Addison, Wilson
- The Game – Wilson
- Addison's Trip – Full Company
- That Was a Year – Full Company
- Isn't He Something! – Mama
- Land Boom! – Real Estate Agent
- Talent – Hollis
- You – Full Company
- The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened – Addison, Hollis
- The Game (Reprise) – Wilson
- Addison's City – Addison, Hollis, Wilson
- Boca Raton – Full Company
- Get Out – Addison
- Go – Wilson
- Finale – Addison, Wilson
Referring to the 2003 Bounce productions, theatertermania.com wrote, "A brace of mixed-to-negative reviews has all but assured that this production of Bounce will not be coming to New York." The New York Times noted in an article in November 2003 that "the show, which received lukewarm reviews in two tryout runs, is not coming to Broadway anytime soon."
Ben Brantley, in his New York Times review of the 2003 Kennedy Center production, said "[It] never seems to leave its starting point...Mr. Kind and Mr. McGillin execute this self-introduction [title song] charmingly, translating wryness and ruefulness into a breezy soft-shoe sensibility. But in a sense, when they have finished the song they have already delivered the whole show...Bounce, which features the vibrant Michele Pawk as a zestful gold digger (of both Klondike and jazz-age varieties) and Jane Powell as the Mizners' mother, only rarely kicks into a higher gear than the one that gently propels the opening duet...their trajectory feels as straight and flat as a time line in a history book. The bounce in Bounce is never very high...Much of the music, while whispering of earlier, more flashily complex Sondheim scores, has a conventional surface perkiness that suggests a more old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing kind of show than is this composer's wont. But his extraordinary gift for stealthily weaving dark motifs into a brighter musical fabric is definitely in evidence, mellifluously rendered in the peerless Jonathan Tunick's orchestrations."
Brantley in his review of the 2008 production, praised Ceveris and Gemignani, but declares that, "The problem is that this musical’s travelogue structure precludes its digging deep. It hints at dark and shimmering glories beneath the surface that it never fully mines. Like its leading characters, 'Road Show' doesn’t quite know what to do with the riches at its disposal."
- Jones, Kenneth and Simonson, Robert."Sondheim's Wise Guys Will Not Appear on Bway in April 2000" Playbill.com, November 29, 1999
- Court case and background information on sondheim.com sondheim.com
- "B'way Loses Its 'Bounce'" at sondheim.com sondheim.com
- Portantiere, Michael."Reviews: Bounce", theatermania.com, November 10, 2003
- Simonson, Robert."Bounce Bounces Out of Chicago; Kennedy Center Is Next Hop" playbill.com, August 10, 2003
- Sondheim Guide / Bounce sondheimguide.com
- Simonson, Robert."Sondheim and Weidman's "Bounce" to Get Reading at Public Theater Feb. 6", playbill.com, February 6, 2006
- Jones, Kenneth. "Sondheim & Weidman's Bounce Is Now Called Road Show; Cast Announced", playbill.com, August 12, 2008
- Public Theater 2008-09 listing publictheater.org
- Hetrick, Adam. "Sondheim and Weidman's Road Show Pulls Into the Public Oct. 28", playbill.com, October 28, 2008
- Jones, Kenneth. "Groff, Nottage, Sondheim, Cromer, Pisoni, Korins Among 2009 OBIE Award Winners", playbill.com, May 18, 2009
- Gans, Andrew. "Ruined and Billy Elliot Win Top Honors at Drama Desk Awards" playbill.com, May 17, 2009
- Cox, Gordon."A long and winding 'Road' to N.Y.",Variety, November 7, 2008
- Shenton, Mark."Sondheim's Road Show Begins Performances June 24 at London's Menier Chocolate Factory" playbill.com, June 23, 2011
- Sondheim, Stephen - Look I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011) with Attendant Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes and Miscellany
- McKinley, Jesse."Confirmed: No 'Bounce' To Broadway This Season"The New York Times, November 19, 2003
- Brantley, Ben."Review: Sondheim Guides Two Brothers On a Tour of Life"The New York Times, November 1, 2003
- Brantley, Ben. "Brothers in Flimflammery on a Continental Sojourn", The New York Times", November 19, 2008
- Suskin, Steven."On The Record: Sondheim's Bounce and Neva Small's Broadway" playbill.com, May 16, 2004
- Hetrick, Adam."It's In Your Hands Now: Sondheim's Road Show Cast Recording Released June 30," playbill.com, June 30, 2009
- 2003 Interview with Richard Kind and Howard McGillin
- 2004 Interview with Stephen Sondheim, John Weidman, and Jonathan Tunick
- 2003 Story about recording the original cast CD
- Bounce on The Stephen Sondheim Reference Guide
- Road Show at the Music Theatre International website
- talkinbroadway.co review, November 2, 2003
- Interview with Sondheim, August 12, 2008
- Description of the sets, costumes and lights for the Chicago production.
- Alisa Roost Road Show. Theatre Journal Review.