Sondheim and Prince Reunite for Musical Comedy, Bounce, Bowing in Chicago Prior to DC

News   Sondheim and Prince Reunite for Musical Comedy, Bounce, Bowing in Chicago Prior to DC The reteaming of composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim and director Harold Prince on Bounce, the new musical starting previews in Chicago June 20, is, for musical theatre fans, a fantasy come true.
Bounce stars Michele Pawk (left) and Jane Powell share a laugh a Goodman Theatre press conference.
Bounce stars Michele Pawk (left) and Jane Powell share a laugh a Goodman Theatre press conference.

For the generations who learned from Sondheim and Prince that musicals could be as ambitious and experimental — and entertaining — as your imagination allowed, the reunion of the duo after an artistic separation of more than 20 years is akin to a pop-music fan's fantasy of, say, the return of Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Beatles, Elvis and Buddy Holly (all in one concert). Sondheim and Prince's last collaboration was 1981's Merrily We Roll Along.

The Goodman Theatre in Chicago is staging the new Bounce, inspired by the lives of the colorful American capitalists, the Mizner brothers. John Weidman (Sondheim and Prince's collaborator on Pacific Overtures) wrote the libretto of the musical, which has been in development for several years under different producers and in different versions.

The Bounce company of 19 actors, singers and dancers is led by Gavin Creel, Richard Kind, Herndon Lackey, Howard McGillin, Michele Pawk and Jane Powell in the principal roles. The Goodman Theatre production opens June 30 (with a press preview June 29) and continues performances to Aug. 10.

The show is a said to be a genuine musical comedy, a broad-strokes vision of American ideals and passions, much of it centered on the idea of reinventing yourself (and earning dough).

"Bounce launches its characters into a turn of the century American whirlwind, a time of limitless adventure and boundless opportunity for those who have the energy and audacity to seize them," according to Goodman production notes. "Bounce follows the adventures of brothers Addison (played by Richard Kind) and Wilson (played by Howard McGillin) Mizner, taking to heart the advice of their papa, Lansing Mizner (played by Lackey), a man who never missed an opportunity, and Mama Mizner (played by Powell), who bankrolled their first chance to get rich quick. It's the story of American men and women willing to take risks to grab their piece of the dream, of women like Nellie (played by Tony Award-winner Michele Pawk), a Gold Rush dance hall girl who marries well, again and again. It's the story of resilience and invention, of America's ability to 'bounce.'" Sondheim helped reinvent American musicals in the 1950s, 1960s and '70s, pushing the form with Gypsy and West Side Story (for which he served as lyricist) and then further with Company, A Little Night Music, Follies, Sweeney Todd and Pacific Overtures (those five as composer-lyricist under the direction of Prince, a master at shaping story and creating potent visual worlds for the stage). John Weidman penned the book to Assassins, which had songs by Sondheim, Off-Broadway more than 10 years ago. Roundabout Theatre Company plans to revive the show for its Broadway premiere in the near future.

Creel, a 2002 Tony nominee for playing Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie, plays Hollis Bessemer in the show. The ensemble includes Sean Blake, Marilyn Bogetich, Tom Daugherty, Jeff Dumas, Deanna Dunagan, Nicole Grothues, Rick Hilsabeck, Jeff Parker, Harriet Nzinga Plump, Jenny Powers, Craig Ramsey, Jacquelyn Ritz and Fred Zimmerman.

Designers are Eugene Lee (sets); Miguel Huidor (costumes); Howell Binkley (lighting); Duncan Edwards (sound). Musical director is David Caddick. Michael Arnold is choreographer. Robert Nassif handles dance arrangements.

The Goodman Theatre's world premiere of Bounce plays the Goodman's Albert Theatre. Tickets range $40-$60 and may be purchased at the Goodman Theatre Box Office, 170 N. Dearborn, or may be charged by calling (312) 443-3800. For more information, visit www.goodman-theatre.org.

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The musical will play the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, in November. The two-stop trajectory of the show is likely leading to a Broadway bow sometime in 2003-04.

McGillin is a long-term star of The Phantom of the Opera, and starred as Billy in Lincoln Center Theater's Anything Goes. Kind appeared on Broadway in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife and is known for his work on TV's "Spin City." Powell is the movie musical queen ("Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "Royal Wedding") who makes only occasional stage appearances these days, the last being Avow Off-Broadway. Herndon Lackey played Hugh Dorsey in the Broadway musical Parade, which Prince directed. Prince also piloted the recent Broadway play, Hollywood Arms, which had a short run last fall, but garnered much praise for leading lady Pawk (she snagged a 2003 Tony Award for it). Her past work includes Cabaret and Seussical.