I can't believe it was more than a decade ago, May 2003, when I interviewed actress Jane Powell (then age 74) and Stephen Sondheim (who turned 84 on Saturday) about his "new" stage musical comedy "Bounce," which opened June 30, 2003 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.
The duo, along with the show's director, Harold Prince, were at a press conference discussing the much-anticipated curtain curiosity, which had been kicked around as a play vehicle for 50 years before finally making it to the development stage. The musical, with script written by John Weidman, set at the turn of the century, follows the adventures of brothers Addison and Wilson Mizner during the great Gold Rush and their schemes to get rich. (Originally, it was pitched decades ago as a stage or film vehicle to star Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.) Given lavish treatment, with no expense spared for the premiere at the Goodman, and following two years of planning and production, "Bounce" didn't go far after a run in Washington D.C. and even a revised version that premiered Off-Broadway in New York in October 2008.
Something just wasn't a fit.
Fortunately, the talent and creativity that abounds along Chicago's Navy Pier at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater stage has found the magic, charm and energy required to bring this story back to audiences served up with all the surprises of life for a neatly told 90-minute, no intermission trek that's all over the map, just as it's intended to be.
Now titled "Road Show," directed like never before by CST Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin, it's playing in the more intimate and cozy Upstairs Theater stage until May 4.
Based on the true story of the colorful and charismatic Mizner brothers—the ambitious Addison Mizner, performed by Michael Aaron Lindner, and his squandering younger brother Wilson Mizner, performed by Andrew Rothenberg, it follows their adventures around the globe as they attempt to heed their father's advice to follow the elusive American Dream.
From the Alaskan Gold Rush to the Florida real estate boom, the two never give up, in both business and their kinship.
Linder is fantastic as Addison, an artistic dreamer eager to pave the way for a better future for his mother and everyone around him. In contrast, brother Wilson, who goes on to become a founding business partner with Robert Cobb and Gloria Swanson's husband Herbert Somborn to start the famed Brown Derby restaurant, is a cheat and a swindler with a passion for marrying wealthy widows and squandering fortunes. Rothenberg embodies this brotherly role with mind, spirit and soul.
The cast of "Road Show" also features a roster of all-star talent from near and far, with Robert Lenzi returning home to his Chicago roots and oozing every ounce of personality and passion as spoiled rich kid heir Hollis Bessemer, while Anne Gunn is sturdy and strong as Mama Mizner opposite stage favorite Larry Adams in the guise of Papa Mizner. Actress McKinley Carter provides some of the show's most entertaining turns as wealthy widow Myra Yerkes. Look for a strong and encaptivating turn by actor Jim DeSelm (a Hoosier grad of Bethel College) covering a trio of roles, but especially on his mark as prize fighter Stanley Ketchel. This is a hard-working, tight-knit cast that has every twist and turn covered for seamless, song-sensational tour-de-force. The creative team is also deservedly hailed, including Music Director Michael Mahler, Scenic Designer Scott Davis, Costume Designer Mara Blumenfeld, Lighting Designer Greg Hofmann, Sound Designer Ray Nardelli and Wig and Make-up Designer Melissa Veal.
Tickets are $48 at chicagoshakes.com or call (312) 595-5600. Parking is discounted by 40 percent at the attached Navy Pier garage.