I’ve been half-heartedly mulling over purchasing Tuesday’s newly-released original cast recording of Stephen Sondheim’s “new” (the quotation marks being quite significant) musical Road Show. This version played off-Broadway in New York in October of 2008 and starred Michael Cerveris (The Who’s Tommy, Assassins) and Alexander Gemignani (Assassins, Les Misérables) as the Mizner brothers, Wilson and Addison.
The general plot revolves around the lives of the pair seeking their fortunes during the first half of the 20th century. They attempt to take advantage of both the Alaskan Gold Rush and the Florida real estate boom through some legitimate and some not-so legitimate schemes.
This show is by no means new, over the years it’s gone through multiple changes. Directed by Sam Mendes, it was originally premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop in the fall of 1999 under the moniker Wise Guys. Victor Garber (Sweeney Todd) and Nathan Lane (The Producers, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) played Wilson and Addison, respectively.
The show was rewritten and opened in Chicago in 2003 under the new name Bounce with Richard Kind (The Producers, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and Howard McGillin (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Kiss of the Spider Woman) as Addison and Wilson. A cast recording of that production was released in 2004, which I do have.
The original Bounce recording was nothing spectacular, but it does have a few bright spots and even this mediocre Sondheim album has garnered a few repeat listens from me.
Which brings us back to the latest (and perhaps final incarnation) 2008 production, Road Show. I’ve done some cursory comparisons of the 2004 recording to this latest release and there do appear to be some major changes. The lyrics of the titular song “Bounce” have been scrapped and the melody re-purposed into “Waste.” Maybe I’m just sentimental, but I prefer the earlier version.
Other songs seem to have been replaced entirely. Overall, though Sondheim may have darkened the mood and tone of the newest show, from the recordings alone, it doesn’t seem that different. For now at least, I’ll stick to Bounce and leave Road Show off of my must-buys list.
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (Company, Into the Woods), book by John Weidman (Big, Assassins). Both the Road Show and Bounce original cast recordings are available on both Amazon and iTunes.