Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Bouncing Back to Chicago

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Bouncing Back to Chicago

Article excerpt

The Mizner brothers' Road Show got a second chance

Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's musical about the get-rich-quick Mizner brothers made its much-anticipated world premiere at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in 2003. As Bounce it met with a disappointing critical and popular response. Reworked in 2008 as Road Show, staged at the Public Theater in New York City by director John Doyle, the musical earned a reaction that was more respectful if not wildly enthusiastic.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production of Road Show (March 13-May 4, 2014) was the musical's first production in the city where its predecessor debuted. Anticipation was again high, especially given that it would be in the hands of director Gary Griffin, the company's associate artistic director who has become something of an unofficial chief curator of Sondheim's work in Chicago. His projects have ranged from the 1999 U.S. premiere of Saturday Night and now includes seven productions at Chicago Shakespeare. Griffin has said he was interested in Road Show because it interests Sondheim. (Chicagoans were likely interested in Road Show because it interested Griffin.)

Griffin departed from Doyle's concept which used steamer trunks, crates and suitcases as primary set pieces. Instead, he staged the piece unpretentiously in the company's black-box space, Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare. The audience sat on three sides of the playing area, with projections on the upstage wall suggesting the story's locales. Most of the action occurred on a planked boardwalk placed diagonally across the playing area. The mostly Chicago-based cast picked up instruments occasionally to add accents and color to the accompaniment by the onstage, costumed pianist (Matt Deitchman, March 13-April 20; Tom Vendafreddo, April 22-May 4). The cast of 11 (versus 17 in Doyle's production) all performed multiple roles except Michael Aaron Lindner (Addison Mizner) and Andrew Rothenberg (Wilson Mizner).

Road Show has been much pared-down and is now a more focused show than Bounce. The female love interest has been eliminated, and the emphasis is placed entirely on the brothers, primarily Addison. In that role, Griffin cast the estimable Lindner, one of Chicago's most memorable Sweeney Todds (Porchlight Music Theatre, 2004). …

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