It’s almost the turn of the century (that is, the 20th) when two brothers set out to make their fortune and honor their father. They don’t and they don’t…Well, they do after a fashion, but no one (except a mother) would be truly proud. One brother could swindle P. T. Barnum out of a circus while the other peddles sketchy real estate in Florida (à la Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross Estates). They part ways, travel the world and catch the eye of Stephen Sondheim almost a century later. So many adventures! So much inspiration. You can see why Sondheim and John Weidman would write (and keep re-writing) ROAD SHOW and you can see why Lyric Stage would want to produce it. Sondheim is their bailiwick.
ROAD SHOW (running through Feb. 11th) is the sixth or seventh Sondheim show directed by Spiro Veloudos (co-directed, this time out, with Ilyse Robbins). While I was watching ROAD SHOW, I kept recalling snatches of those other wonderful Sondheim shows at Lyric because that’s where the music leads you. It’s almost impossible not to think of the more familiar song traveling along the same notes.
ROAD SHOW does have moments of its own, like the touching love song, “[You’re] The Best Thing That Ever Happened [to me].” Neil A. Casey and Patrick Varner, as the two lonely souls who find brief happiness, are the main reasons to see ROAD SHOW. (However, their story line is so dramatically fuzzy in the plot turn, that you suspect something was left out of this revision.). Nevertheless, if you’re a Sondheim fan, you don’t want to miss the chance to see even a lesser work by the master.
Jonathan Goldberg, who has shepherded many of the Lyric’s Sondheim musicals, makes the tiny three-piece orchestra sound like the full complement, so I’m inclined to conclude that whatever the Lyric team could accomplish with the musical, ROAD SHOW would still need massive infrastructure improvement before it’s reliably roadworthy.