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Dispatch From London: Sondheim shows up for 'Road Show'

June 26, 2011 | 12:34 pm

Road Show Admirers of Stephen Sondheim watching the first European preview Friday of his musical “Road Show” got an extra bonus. They got to enjoy the newest version of the legendary composer’s musical in the presence of the master himself.

With the runway layout of London’s cozy Menier Chocolate Factory, patrons seated opposite America’s acknowledged musical genius, such as myself, could glimpse Sondheim’s applause, which culminated in a giant thumbs-up to Tony Award-winning director John Doyle at the finale. Doyle is known for his innovative productions, such as “Sweeney Todd,” “Company” and “Mack and Mabel,” in which the actors double as musicians. 

Originally produced in 2003 as “Bounce,” “Road Show” began as a 1999 workshop, entitled “Wise Guys.” After Doyle’s reimagining of the work and substantial revisions, “Road Show” opened at New York’s Public Theater in 2008.  Friday’s show was readjusted to fit the theater’s configuration, where the audience sits on both sides of the stage.

The musical tells the story of the fortune-seeking Mizner brothers in the early 20th century. On his journeys, David Bedella as con artist Wilson Mizner wins and loses a saloon in Alaska, produces a flop on Broadway and manages jockeys and boxers on the take; Michael Jibson as Addison, meanwhile, travels the world making disastrous investments before settling down in south Florida and designing the palatial architectural masterpieces that transformed Palm Beach and Boca Raton.

Also on hand Friday, and seen jotting occasional notes during the preview, were book writer John Weidman, whose credits also include “Assassins,” “Pacific Overtures” and Broadway’s revival of “Anything Goes,” and orchestrator Jonathan Tunick, one of the few artists to win Tony, Emmy, Grammy and Academy awards.  

July 6 marks the play’s official European premiere, with performances continuing through Sept. 17.

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-- Ellen Olivier, reporting from London

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