Road Show

March 13

May 4, 2014

Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare

music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
book by John Weidman
directed by Gary Griffin

Critical Acclaim

     The subtler notions that Griffin's production teases out are what makes this simple but quietly profound production not to be missed. The cast of performers is exceptionally strong (musical direction is by Michael Mahler). The beguiling Andrew Rothenberg has the right blend of dyed hair and faux charm as Wilson Mizner, although he could yet unravel more before our eyes. Larry Adams and Anne Gunn, who play the brothers' parents, embody that generational shift when it comes to the different ways we all seize (or destroy) our various days. Robert Lenzi, who plays Hollis Bessemer, is delightful hapless until that's no longer an option for a young man with ambition. But so much that Griffin achieves here flows from one specific actor, Michael Aaron Lindner, the first performer in this role to really understand that Addison Mizner is far more vulnerable than ambitious. Lindner, to put it simply, offers mostly a normative character, a fellow buffeted by past failure and by the personal failings of those within his family and can't love. He doesn't offer an archetype; he gives the audience a way into the story, a chance for us to see it was all really about us all along” Read full review

“Highly Recommended! With the arrival of spring has come the real revelation: Road Show, the dramatically revised and reimagined edition of Sondheim’s musical (with book by John Weidman). Gary Griffin has brought the superbly overhauled, tightly focused Road Show to the artfully reconfigured Chicago Shakespeare Upstairs space. Fierce, funny, lean and heartbreaking, Road Show is the story of the often stormy, frequently calamitous relationship between two real-life brothers in the early decades of the 20th century. It also is a portrait of the crazy, relentless, often destructive engine that drives this country, and that is fueled in equal parts by dreamy brilliance and disastrous skullduggery.” Read full review

“A cast that knows how to deliver all the emotion and humor embedded in the intricate, intimate 90-minute show. As Addison, Michael Aaron Lindner turns in a performance that is intensely empathetic, a near-perfect foil to Andrew Rothenberg’s sleek, fast-pitch snake-oil salesman. Together, the pair has combustible chemistry, a battle of light and dark, earnest and glib, honesty and hucksterism. Griffin’s ensemble meshes seamlessly, with memorable turns by Larry Adams as the brothers’ demanding, larger-than-life father and Anne Gunn as their devoted, long-suffering mother. McKinley Carter turns in a hilariously tragic performance as a filthy rich widower who becomes hopelessly snared in Wilson’s web of sex appeal and con games. And everyone in the ensemble gets a chance to augment Matt Deitchman’s limber, fluid piano accompaniment with various cast members breaking out snare drums, horns, triangles and flutes.”

“Fueled by a witty book by John Weidman and performed by one pianist and itinerant musicians, Sondheim’s latest score, characteristically embellished with sardonic lyrics, and inventively orchestrated by Jonathan Tunick, repeatedly reminds us how much and how often nobody does it better.”

“The Mizners lived big, meandering and literally beguiling lives. They crossed paths with, or just crossed, many notable Americans as they made their way. Director Gary Griffin again proves his mastery with a spare set, giving the performers most of what they need to fill this continental journey from inside the script, the score and the strident energy with which the cast moves. A vocally glorious cast sells every song as persuasively as the Mizners would. They both inhabit the stage and grace the air with Michael Mahler’s lovely orchestration (and underscoring) that gives poignancy even to the showiest numbers. Road Show’s troubled past, and obscurity, make it a musical that Sondheim fans will strive to see but others may overlook. The production on stage now, however, is one everyone should buy into.

“Fortunately, the talent and creativity that abounds along Chicago's Navy Pier at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater has found the magic, charm and energy required to bring this story back to audiences served up with all the surprises of life for a neatly told 90-minute, no intermission trek that's all over the map, just as it's intended to be. The cast features a roster of all-star talent… a hard-working, tight-knit cast that has every twist and turn covered for seamless, song-sensational tour-de-force.”

“To do Sondheim, the director must understand his talent and work towards bringing his feeling and heart to their stage. Gary Griffin, is THAT director, and continues to prove it as he takes on the works of the master, both old (Gypsy) and new (Road Show) at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The basic story is now a more trim, more intimate ‘chamber musical’ as staged in the Upstairs theater. What this cast lacks in numbers is more than compensated for by the talent they bring. Bravo!”

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