This weekend, I attended my final Sondheim show for the month: Road Show. It is playing at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. It’s a more recent musical based on the life of the Mizner brothers who try to find success in America.
The brothers are very different in temperament. Wilson is the con-man, full of verve and style while Addison is quiet, contemplative and tries to be kind. They both set off to make their fortunes and mark on history with varying success. However, Wilson Mizner was allegedly to have said, “Be nice to people on the way up because you’ll meet the same people on the way down” and “If you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism. If you copy from two, it’s research.” Addison was an architect who defined the architectural landscape of Florida and was the visionary behind Boca Raton.
I liked that the show touched on the rise of Florida as a place of wealth and opportunity. It is incredible to me that these places, Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and even Las Vegas, grew fairly recently even in American history. These places weren’t around 100 years ago and grew because somebody had a dream. Now they are establishments for better or for worse. Fascinating.
I also liked the fact that most of the actors, save the brothers, played instruments throughout the show. Tubas, violins, triangles, drums, and many more instruments made appearances throughout the show. It made me think of vaudeville, all of these acts in one show. The spirit of the play was very much in the spirit of vaudeville and even Gypsy; there is a can-do spirit that persists in spite of constant failure.
Also, it warms my heart the character of death was a man in a bowler hat.
I did have a qualm with the show. Addison travels the world; it’s critical for the plot. He goes to Hawaii, India, and China. However, it requires that the cast don costumes and stereotypical mannerisms to evoke each place. And yeah, it bothered me. I know that the play had to show him going to these places but I didn’t want it to fall into faded stereotypes of these foreign lands. I don’t feel that it was even aware of how awkward and tired these stereotypes were. I’m not sure how to show his travels to these places but this did not work for me.
Despite this qualm, I still enjoyed the show. I’m glad I went but it’s not my favorite Sondheim. Into the Woods takes the cake for this month of Sondheim.