Sondheim’s Road Show had many incarnations (and titles) before it arrived at The Public Theater on November 18, 2008. The musical premiered at the NY Theater Workshop from October through November 1999 under the title Wise Guys. It was directed by the illustrious Sam Mendes, and starred Nathan Lane and Victor Garber as brothers Addison Mizner and Wilson Mizner. A legal case involving Scott Rudin, Weidman and Sondheim held up further production after that.
Substantially rewritten and retitled Bounce, the show opened on June 20, 2003 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. The production was directed by Hal 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 at that point.A private reading of Bounce was held at the Public Theater on February 6, 2006. It was reported that Eric Schaeffer directed, with Richard Kind and mega-star 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 for 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 recently opened for previews at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London on June 24, 2011, officially on July 6 and closed on September 18. John Doyle was the again the director, and now designer of the show, 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.
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.”
Click below to watch clips from Road Show (2008):
(Courtesy of Broadway.com)
Gavin Creel in Chicago’s Bounce (2003).