Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

A Stunning Production of Road Show

Bill Fahrner and Michael Doppe
Theatre Rhinoceros is presenting a splendid production of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Road Show with an outstanding cast of singers and actors under the spirited direction of John Fisher. One of the characters in the fast-paced one hour and forty-five minute musical says, "Sooner or later we're bound to get it right." Indeed, this musical, which has gone through various incarnations (under various names: Wise Guys, Gold and Bounce) since 1999, is finally right.

Road Show is the story of the real life Addison and Wilson Mizner, two innovative brothers who always seemed to be reinventing themselves. They made a fistful of money and then lost it in several diversities of fields in the late 19th and early 20th century, from an Alaskan gold rush to selling property in Florida in 1933. As young boys, Addison and Wilson were encouraged by their father to seize every opportunity in life. After their father died, they went to the Yukon to prospect for gold and they struck it rich.

Addison went his own way and traveled the world speculating in various counties rather wildly, and losing his fortune. He finally settled in Florida where he met his patron and lover Hollis Bessemer. Addison then became a designer of extravagant homes in Palm Beach.

Wilson left Alaska and became a gambler, philanderer, fight promoter, and Broadway and Hollywood producer. However, after his fortune went belly up, he joined his brother in Florida and helped wreck Addison's visionary dreams through a flimflam selling of lots in a new city called Boca Raton.

This version, which played Off-Broadway, is a slimmed down version of Bounce, with some of the songs deleted from the original production. Musically, the Sondheim score is not as layered and complex as a lot of the composer's work, and the lyrics are unusually forthright. However, there are still some terrific songs that are pure Sondheim. "The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened" has been rearranged—from boy-meets-girl to boy-meets-boy ballad. It is melodically beautiful as sung by Bill Fahrner as Addison and Michael Doppe as Hollis. John Weidman's book shows the comic potential of early 20th century American history while also revealing the dark side of deviousness.

Rudy Guerrero gives a charismatic performance as the slick, megalomaniac Wilson Mizner. He brings a daring, savage charm to the character and has a powerful voice in all of this songs. Bill Fahrner as Addison is a perfect foil for brother Wilson. Fahrner delicately delivers Addison's vulnerable, suspicious nature and sexual suppression. The two actors have a piquant chemistry between them.

Michael Doppe gives a poignant performance as Addison's boyfriend and mentor Hollis Bessemer. There is a wonderful resonance in his duet with Bill Fahrner. Kathryn Wood plays various roles, including a beautiful performance as Mama, and Kim Larsen is excellent in his various roles, especially as Papa singing "It's In Your Hands Now."

Kate McCarthy, Ae'Jay Mitchell and Sarah Young give first-rate performances in various roles. Musical director Dave Dobrusky on piano makes the score come alive. Director John Fisher brings an unbroken flexibility to the production.

Road Show runs through January 19th at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 800-838-3006 or online at Coming up next for Theatre Rhinoceros is the Bay Area premiere of The Habit of Art, opening on March 27 at Z Below Theatre.

Photo: David Wilson

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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