Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Colorful Lives

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Colorful Lives

Article excerpt

Doyle's London Road Show portrays dizzying highs and crashing lows

The premiere of a new Sondheim show always brings a great thrill of anticipation, and the first night of John Doyle's production of Road Show at London's Menier Chocolate Factory (June 24-Sept. 17, 2011) was no exception. The show is the much re-worked story of the Mizner brothers - playboy, raconteur and con artist Wilson and Addison, architect and property developer. Their lifelong quest for the ultimate get-rich-quick scheme takes them from the gold-fields of Alaska to the mansions of Palm Beach, bound together in a complex relationship of competition and co-dependence, encompassing dizzying highs and crashing lows.

Road Show (initially Wise Guys, later Bounce) must be the very definition of a show that has not been written but re-written. (A program note hints at an exhaustive analysis of its many incarnations in Look, I Made a Hat, the second volume of Sondheim's collected lyrics.) The production (largely the same as Doyle's 2009 production at the Public Theater in New York City) had a sepia-tint quality, conjuring a grainy photograph from the past, and the stage was decked out in objects such as trunks, a globe, carved chairs and scattered books that suggested the luxurious acquisition and transitory restlessness of the Mizners' existence.

We opened on Addison's deathbed as the company sang of the tragic "Waste" of his life, contrasting his early promise with eventual ruin; it was familiar Sondheim territory. Zipping back to the brothers' youth, we witnessed their father's death and his exhortation to great things ("It's In Your Hands Now," delivered in Glyn Kerslake's stentorian tones). The first half of the show follows them on a riotous tour of the world. Willy makes his fortune marrying a rich widow and promptly squanders it on wine, women and song. Addison is doomed to be less successful, forever in the shadow of his brother's glitter and glitz (down to his red-sequined tap shoes).

David Bedella was superb as prodigal son Willy, oozing charm and a quiet authority in contrast with Michael Jibson's nervier and needier Addison. Their voices complemented each other beautifully, with Bedella's low, mellow tones mixing with Jibson's clear youthful tenor. …

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