Music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by John Weidman.
The Union Theatre to 05 March
204 Union Street, Southwark, London SE1 0LX to 5 March 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7261 9876.
Review: William Russell 10 February.
A road trip well worth taking, and a message that hits home.
Originally called Bounce, this Sondheim show is loosely based on the careers of Addison and Wilson Meisner who made and lost fortunes as they pursued the American dream in the early years of the last century. It is tuneful, very well performed and as up to date as can be since it is about getting rich quick, embarking on questionable building schemes and exploiting the gullible.
The brothers after the death of their father went to Alaska seeking gold, and then fell out after Wilson, the more crooked of the two, gambled away the gold they had discovered. They were, however, joined at the hip in every sense of the word and eventually they met up when Addison, who was a gifted architect, was in Florida building houses for the filthy nouveau riche in Palm Beach. They embarked on a scheme for a new city Boca Raton which failed.
There was life after failure, although the musical does skate over what happened next. But Addison continued to build houses while Wilson ended up in Hollywood first as a screenwriter and then owner of the famous Brown Derby restaurant.
As the brothers Howard Jenkins (Addison) and Andre Refig (Wilson) could not be bettered, the one for ever succumbing to his brother’s scheming, the other ruthlessly exploiting every weakness. As Hollis, a fictional character, and Addison’s lover Joshua LeClair cavorts to the manner born as a spoilt rich boy who first conceives the idea of the new city as a home for artists.
Director Phil Willlmott has created an almost Brechtian piece whose message certainly hits home helped by a first rate cast who sing, dance and play a multitude of roles to perfection. Road Show first surfaced a couple of years back at the Menier when John Doyle staged a version he had directed in America. It packed a punch then and still does in this rather different conception by Willmott, proof of the strength of the material.
The score is not vintage Sondheim perhaps, but it does have two splendid numbers, a rousing celebration of the scamming life called The Game, and a wistful love song The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened. The Union has a proud record of staging musicals and this production is up there with the best.
Addison Meisner: Howard Jenkins.
Wilson Meisner: Andre Refig.
Papa Meisner: Steve Watts.
Mama Meisner: Cathryn Sherman.
Hollis: Joshua LeClair.
Ensemble: Cameron Hay; Amy Perry; Amy Reitsma; Phil Sealey; Laura Jade Clark; Damian Robinson; Sam Sugarman; Alexander McMorran; Jonny Rust; Christina Thornton.
Director: Phil Willmott.
Choreographer: Thomas Michael Voss.
Musical Director: Richard Baker.
Set & Costume Designer: Jess Phillips.
Sound Designer: James Nicholson.
Lighting Designer: Jack Weir.