I booked the Road Show, at the Chocolate Factory knowing nothing about the show but as I am a fan of Sondheim thought go on give it a go. I was not let down. The show travels along the Road so to speak at breakneck pace. Brilliant idea of no interval leaves you feeling that you have travelled the journey with the two brothers, played faultlessly by David Bedella and Michael Gibson, and the stand out performance for me was the mother played by the perfect Gillian Bevan. The emotional aspect brought in by Jon Robbins playing Hollis was timed to perfection. My only criticism was that I wanted more. This Road Show I could have watched for double the time, as the characters progression was rather sporadic. Certainly not a Yellow Bricked Road with a happy ending by no means, but a wizard of a production. Fantastic. - Daren Wild
17 Sep 11
With trepidation I joined a full Menier house last night to see a musical that was not expected to be my cup of Earl Grey. However, I left pleasantly surprised that ‘Money Bros.’ [aka: Wise Boys, Gold, Bounce] went down well with both the capacity audience and me; likely more polished since its June previews. Here lies a problem facing all productions that are financially prohibited from tweaking shows to perfection before publication. The runway stage induced a feeling of ‘Railway Children’, Centre Court Wombledon and travel sickness; surely it could have been more traditionally staged as an ensemble piece within the Menier space? ..but then it is a Road Show. - Stevie
02 Sep 11
Road Show is an unusual Sondheim musical and not just because it went through several gestations before this version finally reached Broadway in 2008. Unlike many Sondheim shows it's a pretty straightforward story and many of the tunes are instantly memorable, although there is a suspicion that's because some are vaguly familiar from earlier shows. The story is episodic but John Doyle's production bustles along at a tremendous pace aided by an excellent ensemble and a superb band. However it is undermined by a couple of poor directorial decisions. Michael Jibson and David Badella are both superb as the Mizner brothers but Badella, despite being significantly older than Jibson, plays the younger, devious brother, which changes and confuses the dynamic between them. Far worse is the traverse staging which I have never seen work effectively. All it does here is create problems with blocking and sound balance and gave me a stiff neck and backache having to twist in the bench seats to follow the action. It's a pity because otherwise this is a very good production of an unusually accessible Sondheim show. - David Baxter
29 Aug 11
Have been a big Sondheim fan for years....will forget I ever saw this one - MauriceC
14 Aug 11
This show has much to commend it - a Sondheim score with some very good songs, a fine cast who are impressive and a staging which suits the production well. I just wish the story was stronger and the various strands came together to make it compelling. - Paul Wallis
23 Jul 11
Great performances, great direction, great lighting, great movement, great musical direction, great concept............ terrible show.... unfortunately terrible terrible show..... - Cassox
20 Jul 11
I was lucky enough to be passing through Chicago (as one does) when the second incarnation of this show, then named Bounce (it’s first title was Wise Guys), was playing in 2003. It was OK, but seemed a bit slight for Sondheim – a light musical comedy about a con man. Well, this certainly isn’t that show!
From his deathbed, Addison & Wilson Mizner’s father encourages his sons Wilson and Addison to go off and make names for themselves and change the world, as you can only do in the US of A. The story of their attempts to fulfill his wishes start with the Alaska gold rush and ends with a property development in Florida, the idea of which comes from Addison’s new partner (in every sense of the word), rich boy Hollis Bessemer. In between, the brother’s relationship moves between closeness and antagonism, with Wilson’s con man tendencies and Addison’s relationship with Hollis piling on the pressure.
It had little depth back in 2003 and one was left with a ‘what are you getting at?’ feeling. ‘This is Sondheim; it can’t be as simple as all that’. Following a number of re-writes and productions, and more significantly for me, the fact that it comes after the credit crunch, and we get a show that examines both the American dream and brotherly love. In many ways it resembles Assassins – both in terms of musical style and the fact that both are poking around in the American psyche. This new incarnation does have depth and is now very much a Sondheim show. Thank god he and John Weidman persisted for so long; many would have given up.
John Doyle’s traverse staging has extraordinary pace and intimacy. There’s no set as such, just props piled up at both ends to be brought on when required and a lot of fake money to be thrown around. The 8-piece band under Catherine Jayes play the score superbly. I do think it is musically a bit derivative, though – but of Sondheim himself; there were a number of occasions when I was thinking ‘ I’ve heard that before’.
Michael Jibson and David Badella as the brothers are both absolutely brilliant, with real chemistry between them. Jon Robyns is excellent as Hollis and both Glyn Kerslake and Gillian Bevan make much of the relatively small roles of mama and papa. The tightly knit ensemble of eight play all other characters and constitute a chorus that glides and flows with the story.
It zips along so quickly that I felt I’d not been able to take it all in, so when I got home I booked to go back! - Gareth James
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