Road Show (Menier Chocolate Factory)

Originally published on my LiveJournal blog on 16 July 2011.

Stephen Sondheim’s newest musical for the London stage is not ‘new’ at all, really.  Although the story of the Mizner brothers is now called ‘Road Show’, it dates back to 1999 and has previously been staged in the United States as ‘Wise Guys’, ‘Gold’ and ‘Bounce’.  Every time it has tanked under critical derision and lacklustre audience interest.

David Bedella in Road Show.
David Bedella in Road Show.

With a cast of thirteen, a band of eight musicians. and a staging which has the audience on either side of the action, we first meet Addison Mitzer (Michael Jibson) on his death-bed, where his friends and relations sing about how his whole life has been a ‘Waste’.  His energetic younger brother Wilson (David Bedella) has the charm and the ‘something’ which keeps him afloat through gambling and scams, while Addison follows a more sure and steady path – only really coming into his own when he meets the young Hollis Bessemer (Jon Robyns), an artist with money who quickly becomes his lover and business partner.

The songs aren’t particularly memorable when you consider Sondheim’s major works and the major songs which have come from them – still, ‘Isn’t He Something’ (a song from Mama Mizner about Wilson) and ‘You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me’ (a love duet for Addison and Hollis), have charm.  It is just that, despite the best efforts of the cast, who clearly work hard, and the rethinking of the production as a major piece, all thrown money, furniture moving, and striding about, something is still not quite engaging enough.

I was interested to see Julia McKenzie, a talented Sondheim alumnus herself, in the audience – I wonder what her verdict on this show would be?

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