Road Show (musical)

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Road Show
(previously titled Bounce)
Bounce 2003.jpg
Album cover of original version
MusicStephen Sondheim
LyricsStephen Sondheim
BookJohn Weidman
BasisAdventures of Addison Mizner and Wilson Mizner
Productions2003 Chicago
2003 Washington, DC
2008 Off-Broadway
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 Klondike gold rush to the Florida real estate boom of 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 takes considerable liberties with the facts of Addison's and Wilson's lives.

Production history[edit]

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.[1] A legal case involving Scott Rudin and Weidman and Sondheim held up further production.[2]

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, lighting design by Howell Binkley, and hair design by David H. Lawrence. 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).[3]

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.[4][5][6] 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.[7]

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.[8][9][10] This production won the 2009 Obie Award for Music and Lyrics.[11] and the Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Lyrics (Sondheim).[12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

The US regional premier opened at Stages Repertory Theater in Houston, Texas on May 22, 2013, directed by Kenn McLaughlin. The cast featured Tom Frey and L. Jay Meyer, playing Wilson and Addison Mizner, respectively, along with Susan Shofner as Mama, Jimmy Phillips as Papa, and Michael McClure as Hollis. Rounding out the cast were Cameron Bautsch, Bridget Bierne, Hunter Frederick, Sarah Myers, Amanda Parker, Amanda Passanante, Tom Prior and Brandon Whitley.[15]

A Chicago version opened at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on March 13, 2014, starring Andrew Rothenberg as Wilson and Michael Aaron Lidner as Addison.

The New England premiere of Road Show ran from January 12 to February 11, 2018 at The Lyric Stage Company of Boston in Boston, MA.[16]

Early versions[edit]

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 II 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.[17] 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 re-encounter each other in New York, Nellie having become rich on the brothers' gold claim, and they marry after the song 'The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened.' She divorces him 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 the Road Show version, Sondheim rewrote the opening number "Bounce" as "Waste," to reflect a darker tone. He added an additional song, "Brotherly Love," for the Mizners, and rewrote "The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened" as a duet for Addison and Hollis.


After the 1933 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 younger brother Wilson appears and speaks to Addison, who angrily claims that Wilson was the cause of all his failures. The time shifts to Papa Mizner's death in California at the beginning of the 20th century. On his deathbed, Papa 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" to follow. Mama Mizner reveals the family's wealth has been eaten away by Papa's long illness and advises the boys to seek gold in Alaska; Addison is reluctant, but goes along with Wilson anyway ("Gold!").

In the Klondike, the brothers share a sleeping bag and reminisce about their childhood ("Brotherly Love"). Wilson leaves to get supplies while Addison works the claim. Wilson is lured into a game of poker. Addison is shocked to discover his brother gambling. Wilson explains his newfound love of taking risks regardless of what's at stake ("The Game"). Wilson stakes their gold claim in a poker game and wins the saloon in which the game is taking place. (This episode is fictitious.) A 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. He is left with nothing but souvenirs that inspire him to take up architecture (so he can design a house in which to show them off). Wilson's businesses in Alaska also have failed, so he comes south to seek his brother's help. Wilson seduces and marries Addison's first client, a rich widow, and fritters away her money on various flashy endeavours, including fixed boxing matches and horse races ("That Was A Year").

Although Wilson's various partners lose money, 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, he finds that Mama has died in his absence. Addison angrily throws Wilson out of the house.

Learning of rising property interests in Florida ("Land Boom!"), Addison decides to travel to Palm Beach to take advantage of the many rich people settling there who need houses built. (In reality, Mizner went there for his health.) On the train he meets the fictitious Hollis Bessemer, with whom he is instantly smitten. Hollis is the son of a wealthy industrialist, cut off by his father for refusing to enter the family business. His real passion is art, and although he is not himself talented, he dreams of creating an artists' colony in Palm Beach with the help of his aunt, who is staying there in a hotel ("Talent").

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. Wilson arrives at Hollis's 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").

Wilson's con man instincts resurface. He promotes the Boca Raton real estate scheme with increasingly extravagant and eventually fraudulent claims, creating a price bubble ("Boca Raton"). Addison goes along, until it is Hollis who finally puts a stop to the real-estate scheme. He asks Addison choose between Wilson and him. Addison, brought to a state of desperation, drives Hollis away by claiming he never loved him. Addison also orders Wilson out of his life ("Get Out"), but Wilson insists Addison loves him too much ("Go"). Addison agrees, but still wants him to go. Wilson 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. At this point, Wilson realises that he, too, has died. The brothers bicker half-heartedly, 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."

Historical liberties[edit]

The musical is sometimes taken as a faithful portrayal of the two brothers' lives. This is not quite the case. While Addison was an architect and Wilson a con man, among other things, Hollis Bessemer is fictitious; he has some similarities to Addison's friend Paris Singer, but Singer was not a homosexual and certainly not Addison's lover. Addison's homosexuality, while no secret, was at the time kept much quieter than it is in the musical; he never had a "lover". Wilson's role in the Boca Raton fiasco is exaggerated, and while he did marry a rich widow, who quickly divorced him, she had not been a client of Addison. Addison never blamed Wilson for all his problems. Mama Mizner was not behind the boys' gold mining. While Addison did travel considerably, it was not around the world, and it was not the case that part of it was a string of businesses. Addison's alleged decisión to become an architect so as to build a house for his souvenirs is colorful, but fictitious.

Musical numbers[edit]

§ 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

Critical response[edit]

Referring to the 2003 Bounce productions, wrote, "A brace of mixed-to-negative reviews has all but assured that this production of Bounce will not be coming to New York."[4] 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."[18]

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."[19]

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."[20]


An original cast recording of the 2003 version (then titled Bounce) was released on May 4, 2004 by Nonesuch Records.[21]

An original cast recording of the 2008 Public Theater production was made by PS Classics and Nonesuch Records, and was released on June 30, 2009.[22]


  1. ^ Jones, Kenneth and Simonson, Robert. "Sondheim's Wise Guys Will Not Appear on Bway in April 2000" Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine., November 29, 1999
  2. ^ Court case and background information on
  3. ^ "B'way Loses Its 'Bounce'" at
  4. ^ a b Portantiere, Michael."Reviews: Bounce",, November 10, 2003
  5. ^ Simonson, Robert."Bounce Bounces Out of Chicago; Kennedy Center Is Next Hop", August 10, 2003
  6. ^ Sondheim Guide / Bounce
  7. ^ Simonson, Robert."Sondheim and Weidman's "Bounce" to Get Reading at Public Theater Feb. 6" Archived 2008-06-05 at the Wayback Machine.,, February 6, 2006
  8. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Sondheim & Weidman's Bounce Is Now Called Road Show; Cast Announced",, August 12, 2008
  9. ^ Public Theater 2008-09 listing
  10. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Sondheim and Weidman's Road Show Pulls Into the Public Oct. 28" Archived 2008-10-31 at the Wayback Machine.,, October 28, 2008
  11. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Groff, Nottage, Sondheim, Cromer, Pisoni, Korins Among 2009 OBIE Award Winners",, May 18, 2009
  12. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Ruined and Billy Elliot Win Top Honors at Drama Desk Awards", May 17, 2009
  13. ^ Cox, Gordon."A long and winding 'Road' to N.Y.",Variety, November 7, 2008
  14. ^ Shenton, Mark."Sondheim's Road Show Begins Performances June 24 at London's Menier Chocolate Factory", June 23, 2011
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Sondheim, Stephen - Look I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011) with Attendant Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes and Miscellany
  18. ^ McKinley, Jesse."Confirmed: No 'Bounce' To Broadway This Season"The New York Times, November 19, 2003
  19. ^ Brantley, Ben."Review: Sondheim Guides Two Brothers On a Tour of Life"The New York Times, November 1, 2003
  20. ^ Brantley, Ben. "Brothers in Flimflammery on a Continental Sojourn", The New York Times", November 19, 2008
  21. ^ Suskin, Steven."On The Record: Sondheim's Bounce and Neva Small's Broadway", May 16, 2004
  22. ^ Hetrick, Adam."It's In Your Hands Now: Sondheim's Road Show Cast Recording Released June 30,", June 30, 2009

External links[edit]