ZERO :: the Fool (annwyd) wrote,
ZERO :: the Fool
annwyd

Sondheim in 15 Minutes, #1.

So, I saw Road Show, which is the latest iteration of Bounce. From a quick Wikipedia, it appears to have lost a lot of what made it into Bounce, but considering the reviews Bounce got, that may not be a bad thing. I'll get into that later.

I've been pretty tainted by fandom. While watching the show, all I could think was that, "If this were fandom, there would be such ship wars between Addison/Hollis fans and Addison/Wilson fans."

Now, this is one of the least-known of Sondheim's works (partially because of its fumbling legal history, partially because of its lackluster reviews), so I'm going to include a little summary here. This is going to be my first Sondheim in 15 Minutes. If there is demand, I may do more. Because I love Sondheim. Ridiculously.

The show opens on ADDISON MIZNER, dead in bed, entering the afterlife.
EVERYONE ADDISON HAS EVER KNOWN: You wasted your life!
HOLLIS: Also I kind of hate you. >:|
ADDISON: ;_;
WILSON MIZNER: Hey bro!
ADDISON: I hate you.
WILSON: No, you don't.
ADDISON: Yes, I do.
WILSON: No, you don't.
ADDISON: Yes, I do.
WILSON and ADDISON fight like children.
MAMA MIZNER: Oh boys, it's flashback time!
PAPA MIZNER: Follow your dreams! Seek opportunity! It's the American way!
PAPA MIZNER dies.
MAMA MIZNER: Now you boys go up to the Yukon and get me some of that gold they're finding there!
ADDISON: Um, it's Alaska.
WILSON: Yay! Gold!
ADDISON: But, it's Alaska.
WILSON: Maybe you didn't hear me. Gold.
ADDISON gives in because the show's barely started and he already has a fucked-up codependent relationship with Wilson.
WILSON: It's cold.
ADDISON: Yes, it's cold.
WILSON: Well, I'm gonna go gamble in town. Keep working our claim!
ADDISON keeps working the claim.
WILSON gambles in town.

ADDISON: Hey, brother, I finally found gold!
WILSON: Great!
WILSON gambles the gold, wins, trades the winnings and the claim for a saloon in town.
ADDISON: ...I hate you.
WILSON: But, but--
ADDISON travels the world and has terrible, terrible luck.
ADDISON: Actually, I think I want to design buildings. That'll be cool.
ADDISON settles in New York, until:
WILSON: Hey, brother, guess who's here! And I brought Mama!
ADDISON: ...Great. Now, I have a client, so if you'd just--
WILSON steals ADDISON'S client, marries her, and uses all her money.
THE PEOPLE OF NEW YORK CITY: Wilson Mizner ruined our lives, but isn't he great?
WILSON ruins ADDISON'S life.
MAMA MIZNER: Your brother never visits. I wish he'd visit. Isn't he great? I love your brother. He's totally awesome.
MAMA MIZNER dies.
WILSON: Hey, brother! Hey, mama! I'm here for a visit!
ADDISON: I hate you.
ADDISON goes to Florida to get rich in the land boom.
HOLLIS BESSEMER: Hi. I'm a poor little rich boy. I'm also pretty cute.
ADDISON: Hmmm.
HOLLIS: Also I know people who would pay you lots of money to build stuff.
ADDISON: I can has love and money?
HOLLIS: You can has!
ADDISON and HOLLIS make out, sing love songs, and are filthy rich and deliriously happy.
WILSON: Hey, brother!
ADDISON: Oh my God, no.
WILSON: I know I look like I've just spent the past decade penniless and knee-deep in opium, and, well, actually I have. But I also have a great idea!
ADDISON: Maybe you didn't hear my first 'Oh my God, no.'
WILSON: Fine. I'll just--hey, can I talk to your boyfriend first?
ADDISON: Wait just a--
HOLLIS: I think your brother has a great idea!
ADDISON: Why, brother, why--ooh, this does kind of sound like a good idea when you put it that way...
WILSON uses up all of ADDISON and HOLLIS'S money in a shady deal that never goes anywhere.
HOLLIS: I was just a mark to both of you, wasn't I! I hate you!
ADDISON: Well...at least I got laid...
HOLLIS: Not anymore you won't.
WILSON ruins ADDISON'S life.
ADDISON: Thanks. Really.
WILSON: You love me.
ADDISON: I hate you. Go away and never come back.
WILSON: You need me.
ADDISON: Go away.
WILSON: ...Fine.
ADDISON: ;_;
Flash-forward. They're both dead again.
WILSON: Nothing to do now but keep going forward!
ADDISON: Wilson, we're dead.
WILSON: Can't keep opportunity waiting!
ADDISON: I'm never getting rid of you, am I.
WILSON: Nope! Because we're symbols of the American way of life! Or something like that. I'm not sure, I just know I got to make a lot of quips.

As for my opinion of the actual musical...it's mixed. The production was excellent; the actors were excellent (especially Michael Cerveris, recently of Assassins and Sweeney Todd, as Wilson). But the score was merely okay. I quite like "The Game" and always have, since I first heard a bootleg copy of Victor Garber's performance of it in the original studio run. Stripped out of context, Addison and Hollis's couple of duet make sweet love songs; in context, they're both sweet love songs and uncomfortable reminders of the entrepreneurial base of their relationship. That's classic Sondheim right there. Other than that, though, there really weren't standouts. From what I've read, there were more standouts in the earlier version of Bounce.

I understand that Sondheim and Weidman (the author of the book, which was also quite good) wanted to streamline the show into its purest form for Road Show. But I think they streamlined it a bit too much. They wanted streamlined-like-Assassins, but instead the whole thing felt like it could have used better unifying themes. The titular road shows up in one of the first songs as well as near the end, in Wilson's fantastical vision of a road to be built into Boca Raton, but for something that's supposed to be the central image of the show, it's rather absent throughout.

One thing that has been the mark of great Sondheim, though, is when the characters have a powerful relationship on their own terms rather than just as symbols. There are several examples, but the one that will always stick with me is Dot and George. Addison and Wilson are an attempt to create a relationship like that. They're American symbols: the builder/creator and the user/destroyer, both inextricably tied up in the American dream. And their relationship is indeed powerful, especially in the hands of Alexander Gemignani and Michael Cerveris. But it's lacking a solid thematic thread to tie it together and identify them as both people and symbols.

I guess I just felt like it could have been a lot more, you know? If they'd had some better numbers. If they'd fleshed out the brothers' lives and relationships a bit more. If they'd carried the motifs through more thoroughly.

It was still a really fun show, though, and I enjoyed it very much.
Tags: sondheim, theater
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