Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dog and pony show

If Road Show, the renovated Sondheim musical formerly known as Bounce and playing at the Public through the end of the year, had been written by any other composer, I would've walked out thinking that wasn't half bad. But with Stevie, the bar is set rather high. The book -- inspired by the Mizner brothers, known for picaresque misadventures and society beach cottages in Florida -- is John Weidman of Pacific Overtures and Assassins fame. Those two shows left me feeling about the same way that I did after this latest one. They were entertaining enough in the moment, but don't really leave me with all that much to go home with. Direction is by John Doyle, whose work on Sweeney Todd and Company was excellent. This time around, the actors aren't playing any instruments and the live musicians are off stage the whole time. One of the central motifs of the musical is the idea of throwing a lot of money around, made literal in the several dozen times that characters actually toss piles of cash into the air to have the bills flutter around like autumn leaves. I'd argue that this bit of direction might've been overused just a little bit, but it certainly unites the different aspects of the brothers' lives. The costumes worn by the ensemble work better: They are made of fabric printed with architectural drawings of the kind that Addison Mizner draws for his rich clientele in New York and Florida. (At first, I thought they were bank checks, which also would've worked.) The set is basically a mountain/wall of brick-a-brack, filled with props that come in handy for various milestones along the Mizners' road(s). Alexander Gemignani and Michael Cerveris do a decent job of highlighting the shades of gray in the Mizners' journeys. They're not quite crooks and they're not quite successful businessmen either. The Playbill notes nod at real estate bubbles past and present. The show's about 100 minutes without intermission. I paid full price, which I regret somewhat. If you can get in to see it for anything less, it might be worth it.

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