Review: Road Show at New York City Center
The last entry in Encores! Off-Center this year is Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Road Show, a fictionalized account of the Mizner's brothers lives as they worked their way through the early 20th century. And while the genius of Sondheim finds its way in, it is clear to see why it is a show that has been so frequently reworked.
It's portrait of America in the early 1900s told through the lenses of dreamers and scammers. It begins as the two brothers, Addison (Brandon Uranowitz) and Wilson (Raúl Esparza) leave the California home of Papa Mizner (Chuck Cooper) and Mama Mizner (Mary Beth Peil) to try and get rich in the Alaska gold rush. The relationship between the two brothers is a complicated Cain-and-Abel like one, and both brothers eventually end up in South Florida during the 1920s land boom, where Addison has become romantically involved with a dreamer named Hollis (Jin Ha) who hopes to create a place for all artists to come. Once Wilson shows up however, the dream that Hollis has created with Addison and his architectural skills begins to fade quite quickly.
Road Show is somewhat presented as a radio show, though after the first few numbers the effect is lost almost completely. And while the score is engaging and fun to listen to, though you may not leave humming any of the songs, the book and the number of twists and turns it takes becomes somewhat irksome, despite the good performances.
Despite the flaws that have led to Road Show's long and twisty journey thus far, the cast elevates the material to another playing field. Both Uranowitz and Esparza give fantastic performances as the two brothers, playing quite well off each other in certain moments. Ha leaves his mark as the earnest and romantic Hollis, while Peil and Cooper, despite having the least time onstage, make a strong impression on the audience as they act almost like the conscience of the two brothers.
Even though the production is quite solid and has a great cast, it doesn't really make a case for the show. However, it is still one that deserves to be seen wherever it appears, as maybe, like the last line of the show says, "sooner or later we're bound to get it right." And while City Center's production can't be classed as the perfect production of the show, it works very hard to get as close as it can.