Sondheim's Bounce to Bounce from Goodman to Kennedy Center in Fall

News   Sondheim's Bounce to Bounce from Goodman to Kennedy Center in Fall Bounce, the new musical by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, set to open at Chicago's Goodman Theater this summer under the direction of Harold Prince, has set its second stop: the Kenney Center.

The musical will play the Washington, D.C., institution in the fall. The two-stop trajectory of the show is likely aimed at a Broadway bow sometime in 2003-04. Talk of a Kennedy Center engagement for the new musical began as early as January, but Kennedy Center officials denied knowledge of any such booking.

Said Prince of the show's recent name chance from Wise Guys to Bounce: "The abiding message of the show is that the best of America is pioneering — that we have an uncommon resilience, and the ability to reinvent ourselves. We believe Bounce reflects that, and Steve Sondheim's opening number is 'Bounce.'"

Bounce previously went under the title Gold! and, before that, Wise Guys.

The Goodman show will begin performances at Chicago's Goodman Theater on June 20, 2003. Opening will be on June 30. The run will last until Aug. 3. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on March 24. Tickets may be purchased at the Goodman Theatre Box Office, 170 N. Dearborn Street, charged by phoning (312) 443-3800 or online at www.goodman theatre.org.

Richard Kind and Howard McGillin will play the two leads. Faith Prince is also in the cast. When last heard from, the creative team of the show was busy polishing a new version of the script, which Prince calls "robust" and "bold."

"We're working hard," said Prince. "We've got the show 95 percent finished. It's a very bold, raw, invigorating experience, this show. It's very up, a kind of a look at those times in American history that were pioneer times — the Roaring '20s. There was such gutsiness and gusto in the way people lived. It all adds up ultimately to innocence."

Prince said that the nature of the score had changed since the failed 1999 workshop at New York Theatre Workshop, when Sam Mendes was the director and the musical was called Wise Guys. At the time, the score was said to have featured presentational, vaudeville pastiche numbers.

"It's robust. Put it that way," Prince said of the music. "There are a couple numbers in that score that are as good as anything Steve's ever written. We haven't thrown those out, you can be sure. The show is bold and broad. Most of it is new."

Bounce is about the eccentric, real-life brothers Addison and Wilson Mizner. The Mizners were regarded as risk taking gamblers who ended up as real-estate developers in Florida. Settings in the musical have included Alaska, California, New York City and Boca Raton, FL, which the brothers helped found.

Asked what had convinced him to take over direction of the piece, Prince explained: "I was sort of like somebody watching from a distance. At the time, I didn't know why it was being done or what it was about it that fascinated them all. When the workshop was over, Steve and John said, 'Can we come and just talk about it? Maybe you'll have some insights.' They came and we just talked about it, and in the course of talking a number of times, I found myself getting really interested in a show. Not the one they had done, but a show.

"The very first thing I said," Prince continued, "was 'Where are the girls, for God's sake?' I felt like Florenz Ziegfeld for the first time in my career. 'Where's the sex?' That whole tumbling through America, which is not what that show was about, is very alluring. It's America, the pioneer place, where people reinvent themselves; where you stumble and get up, dust yourself off and go through another door. All of that stuff seemed so vital to me. None of that did I see in that version. It's a different show completely now. They're doing a very courageous thing. They're willing to tear it up and start again."

Prince and Sondheim have not worked together on a new show since 1981's Merrily We Roll Along, which was recently given a concert reading in New York City. At the end of the event, which featured much of the original cast, Sondheim and Prince appeared on stage and hugged.

To view Playbill On-Line's entire conversation with Prince, click Brief Encounter.