Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Road Not Taken - Road Show - Musical Review

Road Show - The Public Theatre - Off-Broadway - New York, NY - ***1/2 (out of 5)
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by John Weidman, Directed and Set Designed by John Doyle
Runs until Dec. 28th 2008

Just as the show itself has changed its name numerous times since its inception (originally Wise Guys, then Gold, then Bounce, and now Road Show), I keep changing my mind as to whether I loved the show or not. Anyways, BroadwayAbridged has abridged the show now and basically says it all. Hilariously might I add! (Although I didn't totally hate it as much as he did).

Loved the non-set set.

Didn't totally love the gloomy mood and all the browness, even though I know they were trying to invoke the early 1900's with it all.

Liked a lot of the songs, which are re-warmed Sondheim but re-warmed Sondheim is still far better than some other new shows.

Didn't love the fractured yet repetitive feeling story about two brothers in their search for success and their many many failures along the way.

Loved Alexander Gemignani as the "good" brother Addison Mizner.

Love Michael Cerveris and his voice and aura but didn't love him in the role as the "bad" brother Wilson Mizner and thought he was totally miscast.

Loved handsome and the beautiful voiced newcomer Claybourne Elder as Hollis Bessemer, who ends up being Addison's business partner and more, and eventually gets screwed over by the brothers.

Didn't love that none of it really made sense and people conveniently changed emotions and their minds, or would start taking drugs or being good or bad.

Loved that money was being thrown up in the air all the time.

Didn't love that it wasn't real money that I could take at the end of the show. Then it was like, yah, I get it. Money is being thrown away. And if I can't take it now, I thought it was a little overdone.

Liked the actors playing the parents.

Didn't love the parent characters at ALL and found any of their scenes a complete BORE. We get it. The brothers are haunted by their dead father and the mother is a whiny nag relying on the brothers for survival. Get on with it already.

Loved the ensemble (especially Anne L. Nathan, above second from left). Didn't love that some of the ensemble seemed underused and wasted sitting away on the set throughout the whole show. They really did look like they were missing their instruments.

I can see why Sondheim has kept fiddling with the show for so many years because it feels like there is a good musical somewhere in Road Show. It just isn't there yet. It's good and there are many great things. On the other hand, with the current version being number four, it might finally be time for Sondheim to move on to something else. Especially since the biggest problem may be the story itself. It's extremely episodic with each song seemingly detailing another of the brothers ventures to get rich (from seeking out gold in Alaska to building houses in Florida and a few scams in between), and it barely builds sympathy for Addison Mizner while it totally antagonizes brother Wilson Mizner, so it's hard to care and root for the leads in an already dark and gloomy setting. Elder's Hollis adds a breath of fresh air and some much needed empathy but he then gets easily tossed away by Addison (and the show) for the return of Wilson and his dirty tricks.

Sondheim might be best to get off this Road for another route, on the other hand, I enjoyed this ride more than I thought, despite the very bumpy road.


Esther said...

I really liked the whole dark tone of this, the way it shows the brothers constantly remaking themselves.

I liked seeing the money getting thrown around everywhere, although yeah, I guess it was a bit overdone. And I did like Michael Cerveris as the "bad brother," especially the scene in New York, where it shows all the schemes he's involved in.

And I liked the scene at the end, showing how everyone gets taken in by this land deal.

I did like that song "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me." Although I wasn't sure whether Addison really was in love with Hollis or whether it was another scheme. And I really liked Claybourne Elder. He was kind of sweet and innocent.

Vance said...

I liked the dark tone of the musical, but the look of it while interesting at first became dreary (at least during the boring parents parts).

I loved that Youre the best thing that ever happened to me. I think it was my favourite part. Though yah, not sure if it was just another scam or not.