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Review Roundup: ROAD SHOW at Encores! Off-Center

Road Show

Wrapping up the Encores! Off-Center season is Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Road Show, running through July 27.

Directed and choreographed by Will Davis, with music direction by James Moore, Road Show tells the somewhat true story of the Mizner brothers who inherit a small fortune at the turn of the 20th Century and set out to grab their piece of the American Dream in a country where anything seems possible. The production will star Chuck Cooper (Papa Mizner), Raúl Esparza (Wilson Mizner), Jin Ha (Hollis Bessemer), Mary Beth Peil (Mama Mizner), and Brandon Uranowitz (Addison Mizner).

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Jesse Green, New York Times: What ultimately undermines "Road Show" is that sense of diminishing rather than increasing returns. In recent versions, and especially in this one, we don't much care about either brother; though both sing beautifully, Mr. Esparza is seedy bad news from the start and Mr. Uranowitz a mopey mess. Nothing about their characters improves with age, which may be the point. Fine, but this is a musical, not a treatise. Ideas about what people stand for (and what they are willing to stand) are important underpinnings of many great works, including Mr. Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd," which doesn't lack for darkness.

Elysa Gardner, New York Stage Review: The leads both deliver beautifully shaded, robustly sung performances, Esparza summoning the full force of his wit and charisma to evince Wilson's charm while also suggesting the sense of emptiness that gnaws at him, leading to unnerving bursts of anger and desperation. Uranowitz's Addison proves similarly haunting as his character's sweet, quietly righteous nature is challenged-particularly after Wilson intrudes on the professional and romantic partnership Addison has forged with a idealistic young man, named Hollis Bessemer.

Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: This production is, indeed, very good; fence-sitters-and those who might have gone through two or three earlier versions and decided to pass on this one-are hereby advised that they'd better get over to 55th Street before the fifth-and-final showing on Saturday night. This presentation suggests that Road Show might now start to work its way into the repertoire, in the same way that Merrily We Roll Along took a decade to overcome its initial failure and start to find its feet. Hopefully, this won't be your last chance to see Road Show; but here we have Raúl Esparza-at his very best-equally matched by Brandon Uranowitz. So go!

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: The production gains immeasurably from the lead performances. Esparza mines his bottomless charisma to terrific effect, entertainingly finding the dark humor in Wilson's tragic flaws, and Uranowitz brings a gripping emotional complexity to Addison, who ultimately reveals himself to be just as capable of casual cruelty as his brother. Ha is deeply sympathetic as the idealistic Hollis, and Peil and Cooper make strong impressions in their supporting turns.

Joe Dziemianowicz, Theatre News Online: Road Show, whose development reaches back 20 years, is something of a curio. Songs are unmistakably by the same mind behind Sweeney Todd, Company and Passion. But like Weidman's book, Sondheim's lyrics don't often break the surface, though there a couple of nuggets of gold. "The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened," a duet between Addison and Hollis Bessemer (Jin Ha, an ace), the man he falls in love with, is the catchy song. "Go," sung by the Mizner brothers, is the number that summons churning emotions you expect, or at least hope, to find on any "Road" traveled by Sondheim.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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