Nonesuch Records and PS Classics release the original cast recording of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Road Show - from last year's Public Theater production. Directed by John Doyle, the score was conducted by Mary-M... more »itchell Campbell and orchestrated by Jonathan Tunick. Recorded in New York City earlier this year, Road Show features Alexander Gemignani (Addison Mizner), Michael Cerveris (Wilson Mizner), Claybourne Elder (Hollis Bessemer), Alma Cuervo (Mama Mizner), and William Parry (Papa Mizner) and was produced by Tommy Krasker. Nonesuch released the cast recording of an earlier incarnation of Road Show - Bounce, also created by Sondheim and Weidman - in 2004. Spanning 40 years, from the Alaskan Gold Rush to the Florida real estate boom in the 1930s, Road Show is the story of two brothers whose quest for the American dream turns into a test of morality and judgment that changes their lives in unexpected ways. Director John Doyle (Sweeney Todd and Company on Broadway), acclaimed for re-imagining Sondheim's works, joins Weidman and Sondheim in exploring two of America's great issues: capitalism and crooks.« less
Nonesuch Records and PS Classics release the original cast recording of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Road Show - from last year's Public Theater production. Directed by John Doyle, the score was conducted by Mary-Mitchell Campbell and orchestrated by Jonathan Tunick. Recorded in New York City earlier this year, Road Show features Alexander Gemignani (Addison Mizner), Michael Cerveris (Wilson Mizner), Claybourne Elder (Hollis Bessemer), Alma Cuervo (Mama Mizner), and William Parry (Papa Mizner) and was produced by Tommy Krasker. Nonesuch released the cast recording of an earlier incarnation of Road Show - Bounce, also created by Sondheim and Weidman - in 2004. Spanning 40 years, from the Alaskan Gold Rush to the Florida real estate boom in the 1930s, Road Show is the story of two brothers whose quest for the American dream turns into a test of morality and judgment that changes their lives in unexpected ways. Director John Doyle (Sweeney Todd and Company on Broadway), acclaimed for re-imagining Sondheim's works, joins Weidman and Sondheim in exploring two of America's great issues: capitalism and crooks.
"A new recording of a Stephen Sondheim show is always a reason to, if not celebrate, at least pay attention. And when the show itself is new, or at least contains a significant amount of fresh material, even better. So, although Road Show could not, in the strictest sense of the word, be called new, it does represent a chance to witness the latest work by our greatest living composer and lyricist.
As you may know, Road Show is the most recent version of a musical that Sondheim and librettist John Weidman have been working on for years. In fact, the score has already been recorded, under the title Bounce. Which means that we musical-theater mavens now have a terrific opportunity to compare the two recordings and witness how the show has developed over time.
Of course, the experience would be that much better if the show itself were any good. Alas, it is not. In comparing the two recordings, it's clear that the show has improved greatly since its out-of-town tryouts in Chicago and Washington, DC. Most of the changes and cuts have been for the better. But ultimately Road Show will likely take its place alongside such fascinating Sondheim failures as Anyone Can Whistle and Merrily We Roll Along: musical works that have a tremendous amount going for them, but somehow never have, and never will, work as shows.
As is true with most Sondheim scores, repeated hearings of the Road Show recording have revealed a great deal of substance and subtext. I was particularly struck by Sondheim's use of leitmotif, or in this particular case contrafactum: the songs "Gold" and "Land Boom" share the same melody, as do a few other sections of the show that all connote some sort of persuasion or salesmanship. Although most of the show's ballads remain colorless and dull, Sondheim has tuned up considerably the show's uptempo musical sequences, including "Addison's Trip" and "I Love This Town," which here becomes the rousing "That Was a Year." There have also been a number of wisely excised numbers in the transition from Bounce to Road Show, including "Opportunity," "What's Your Rush," and "Next to You."
But I'm still left with the same overall impression I had when I saw the show at the Public Theater: that this is a show that must have seemed compelling on paper, but that fails to bring its characters and subject matter to sympathetic life. (Read my review) The key problem with Road Show is that we don't care about these people. I watched the show and listened to the CD with academic interest, but I never found myself actually feeling for anyone, despite the cast of theater pros, led by Alexander Gemignani and Michael Cerveris.
Of course, Stephen Sondheim could stop working entirely and still be the most important figure in musical theater of the past 50 years. His contributions to the form have been immeasurable, both in terms of his own professional output and his influence on other creators. How fortunate we would be if he could someday create another show on par with his best. If not, his rich and ample body of work remains to satisfy and inspire for generations to come."
Polished, trimmed and sensible
Elizabeth | Australia | 07/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I find Road Show to be an enjoyable listen. Considering only the liner notes' synopsis and the recording, the show feels more coherent than Bounce, making it easier to understand and follow without seeing on a stage.
In this (definitive) version, the melody of "Bounce" with new lyrics, and a song used in an earlier version of the show, "It's In Your Hands Now" (the melody from a cut Assassins number "Flag song") open the show. While reusing compositions is an unheard of Sondheim practice, I don't think it is an issue in this instance."Waste" with its 'bouncy' melody (no pun intended) and ironically grim lyrics create this humorously awkward moment which I think sets the tone for the show. "It's In Your Hands Now" is now also a more appropriate 'deathbed number' than "Opportunity", and like the opening number sets the precedent for the show that follows. William Parry's bass-baritone delivery of the song is also powerful and moving, and like his relatively small performances in Sunday in the Park with George, Assassins and (to a lesser extent) Passion I think he greatly adds to the show. This is my favourite performance.
"Brotherly Love", a song added specifically for this version, contributes to the coherence of Road Show, the insight of the Brother's early relationship makes it easier to understand how it changes (or doesn't change) throughout the show. As for the performances themselves, I think Alexander Gemignani and Michael Cerveris do a fine job singing and reading their lines - are funny at appropriate moments and sincere at others - nothing particularly groundbreaking or exceedingly better than their Bounce counterparts, however.
"The Best Thing That Has Ever Happened" is, not surprisingly, a high point in the show and I'd imagine it will popularly become what the show is known for. "You", "Talent", "Get Out/Go" and "Addison's Trip" are other highlights for me.
Like many of Sondheim's scores you can expect clever lyrics, and repetition and underscoring with dramatic significance.
Perhaps the only thing to miss from the "Bounce" recording is the orchestrations which feel thicker at times. I think "The Best Thing That Has Ever Happened" would have gained a lot from the strings section in the Bounce version, though an argument against this would be it reduces the intimacy of the new version.
Though I rated it a 5, I wouldn't claim the album is as a special as other "5 star" albums such as the Sweeney Todd or Company OBCs, but I find it charming, enjoy every number, and am impressed by the presentation of the album; the booklet with lyrics, photos and some history of the show.
Thankyou PSClassics for recording this!"
Its Sondheim..but not at his best.
N. Wo | Phoenix, Az | 07/13/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am a Sondheim fanatic, so I'm pretty surprised that this is not a 5 star review (most of his other shows would get 5 stars). This show seems to lack any real character depth or real interesting story line. I saw this show when it was named "Bounce" in Chicago and it seemed a bit more focused on the brothers, as this version seems to focus on the "American Dream" a bit more. Great score as well. If your a Sondheim fan don't expect "Sunday", but it's still a great listen. I will take any Sondheim I can get at this point!"
An important addition to the Sondheim canon
Judd L. Silverman | Brooklyn,, NY USA | 07/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE ROAD SHOW NOT TAKEN?
ROAD SHOW took many years to write, and like so many artists' pet projects, it may not end up being the most popular "child" no matter how much it is beloved by its creators. And if this is the "final" version, then WISE GUYS and BOUNCE are only of minor interest in the development process--it is the finished piece that counts. The reaction off-Broadway to ROAD SHOW was strangely cool, perhaps due to all the expectations. And no matter how "advanced" New York audiences and critics may claim to be, traditionalists still love central tracking "characters," a person who represents the audience. But Sondheim and Weidman have done musical "essays" before--a musing meditation on a historic event that changed the course of history. In PACIFIC OVERTURES, the central character wasn't a person at all--it was Japan, dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world. Great visuals, breath-taking music, a thought-provoking experience that questions our own responsibility in Japan's subsequent actions and development. (In ASSASSINS, it was the contorted dream of fame, of making a difference, of getting noticed--America's all-preoccupying past time.) Are you going to say two of our greatest current theater artists can't explore something of interest to them, something a bit more challenging? ROAD SHOW, especially now, is timely in its exploration of hucksterism, of bogus land deals and bilking the public trust. Some folks took what they took with deliberation, while others let circumstances usurp and corrupt their ambitions and dreams. How timely is that? If Japan was the central character of PACIFIC OVERTURES, America and its dream is the central character of ROAD SHOW. It is small, mean, efficient, essay-like--and pungent. And in its own way, quite subversive, asking the questions that we choose not to ask of ourselves. It points the finger at us, the bilked public, the Madoff victims, and asks us, "Aren't you complicit?" And the production at the Public was most admirable, small in scale and design (if somewhat overpopulated) but ably directed and paced by John Doyle, with an incredibly dedicated cast. Alma Cuervo, William Parry, and Claybourne Elder led a strong supporting ensemble, and Michael Cerveris was as brave as ever, portraying the self-serving Wilson Mizner. But it was Alexander Gemignani, a large imposing presence with a heart of gold and guilt (spelling intentional) who came closest to being if not the tracking character, then at least the guilty conscience of ROAD SHOW, in a beautifully sung and played performance (as Addison Mizner). The show was intellectually interesting in the theater and you had to listen to each detail as it hurried by. The recording gives more time to absorb--and like all Sondheim, it grows richer and richer with each replay.
Serious musical theater fans rejoice--a valuable cast album has arrived. As for Sondheim fans--recognize that the master hasn't softened one iota: he still wants you to sit up, listen and think."
Why the Change
Charles J. Anctil | Honolulu, Hawaii | 10/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Road Show is really a great show, another Sondheim sharp crisp show., What for me however is that did it really need to be written? Bounce the original show, written but a few years earlier was great. It is true that to completely enjoy these shows you have to be a Sondheim fan, and that I am. I have both shows, and it is sort of strange to be hearing a lot of the same songs on both shows. In my opinion Bounce is more pure Sondheim than Road Show. But that is just my opinion. Glad to have both in my collection of Sondheim shows."