music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim book by John Weidman.
Menier Chocolate Factory 51-53 Southwark Street SE1 1RU To 17 September 2011.Mat Sat & Sun 3.30pm.Tue – Sat 8pm
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat Sat & Sun 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7378 1713.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 July.
Ideals made rancid by commercial opportunism, all set to music in an adventurous new Sondheim.
Addison and Wilson Mizner spent their lives (both died in 1933) looking for their place in American Dream sunshine, only to discover the road they perpetually travelled was their destination. Exhorted by their dying father to take the opportunities of 20th-century America, they went for gold, finding it in the Yukon. Industriously ambitious Addison travelled the world, investing in uninsured failures in Hawaii, India and China. Wilson stayed on and still lost his fortune.
Despite their quarrelling there’s an erotic flavour to the pair’s relationship; Road Show starts with Wilson visiting the dying Addison’s bed, before looping through their lives, with uneasy sharing of a sleeping-bag and an affection underlying Addison’s often genuine anger.
Wilson, borne aloft on opportunity, never has regrets. Meeting a rich widow, Addison designs her a pool-house; Wilson marries her and forges her cheques. Their longest relationship is with Hollis Bessemer, idealist offspring of an industrial family. Addison builds elaborate houses for Hollis’s wealthy circle (ghastly old folk neutered by identical dark-glasses), Wilson creates a land speculation bubble.
Fittingly, Sondheim’s score largely keeps within a limited range while racing their story along. There’s a trademark ‘rodeo’ sound in three distinct chords linked to “get rich quick”. Short, aspiring phrases, hopes soaring into extended phrases, create musical consistency through the adventures, while diversions include pastiche chocolate-box exoticism as Addison’s seduced into foreign investments.
The musical’s had its own long journey to this form, having been both Gold and Bounce in previous outings. Director John Doyle helped re-shape it in America and now, on a slight, and apt, reduced scale, at the Menier. Here, his traverse staging, offstage performers sitting on box-like scenery either end, creates a fitting sense of everyone and everything being lumber to be lugged around by, especially, the opportunistic Wilson. Characters with cash chuck it carelessly around, as actors shower the floor, then the audience, with theatre money.
David Bedella makes clear how Wilson convinces others because he believes his own plans, while Michael Jibson’s Addison mixes cheery optimism with frustration, and Jon Robyns is nobly ineffectual as clean-cut, white-suited Hollis’ dreams are corrupted.
Addison Mizner: Michael Jibson.
Wilson Mizner: David Bedella.
Mama Mizner: Gillian Bevan.
Papa Mizner: Glyn Kerslake.
Hollis Bessemer: Jon Robyns.
Ensemble: Adrian der Gregorian, Fiona Dunn, Sarah Ingram, Julie Jupp, Elizabeth Marsh, Christopher Ragland, Robbie Scotcher, Phil Wrigley.
Director/Designer: John Doyle.
Lighting: Jane Cox.
Sound: Gareth Owen.
Orchestration: Jonathon Tunick.
Musical Supervisor/Director: Catherine Jayes.
Costume: Matthew Wright.