Sondheim's Bounce Opens at Kennedy Center Oct. 30

News   Sondheim's Bounce Opens at Kennedy Center Oct. 30
Will the critics value the new musical Bounce as pure gold? Or will they regard its creators—composer Stephen Sondheim, librettist John Weidman and director Harold Prince—as a trio of wise guys?
Richard Kind and Jane Powell in the Goodman's production of Bounce
Richard Kind and Jane Powell in the Goodman's production of Bounce Photo by Liz Lauren

The world will know on Halloween, when the reviews appear for the Oct. 30 Kennedy Center opening of the show. Bounce began previews on Oct. 21 for this, the second chapter in its production life, following a world premiere at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, June 20-Aug. 10.

Many industry observers believe the reviews of the Washington staging—which will include some by the New York press—will dictate the musical's future and its chances of reaching Broadway. Roger Berlind and Arielle Tepper are the attached commercial producers and have showed an interest in bringing the show to Gotham. The Washington run will last until Nov. 16.

Bounce is inspired by the lives of the colorful, early-20th-century, American capitalists-cum-con artists, the Mizner brothers, their parents, their loves and their endless capers and schemes. Sondheim's interest in their story began several decades ago.

Sondheim and Weidman labored over the script between the Chicago and DC engagements. "I suppose, in the most general sense, we've tried to clarify the central relationship between the [Mizner] brothers," Weidman told Playbill On Line, “to make the story stronger and clearer. Steve's written a new song for the last fifteen minutes of the show, for the Boca Raton land boom sequence in Florida. We've cut one song—a song called 'Alaska,' a kind of patter song that Michele Pawk and Howard McGillin sang at the Belmont racetrack—in the first act. That has been replaced by a much stronger piece of material and the entire scene has been rewritten. And we lifted one song, 'You Are the Best Thing That Ever Has Happened to Me,' a ballad which Michele Pawk and Howard McGillin sang a full version of very close to the end of the first act. That scene has been cut and the song has been moved to earlier in the act, a place where we feel it works.”

Weidman said the first act is about fifteen minutes shorter than it was in Chicago, while the second act runs the same length. “One of the things that we realized about the show in Chicago, was, in terms of—not the speed of it, but the style of it—we wanted to take the relationship between the brothers more seriously, and to take the thematic issues that drove the show more seriously,” the librettist continued. “I think that the issues of creation versus squandering against the backdrop of a country which provides ample opportunities to do both, the issues of what happens when opportunity turns into opportunism—those are the issues that are alive in the show. But I think the relationship of the brothers, we hope, has become a more powerful and more compelling story than it was in Chicago. People take the emotional ride of the show now. I think the 'What it's about' question will take care of itself.”

As a recent press preview for Wonderful Town, producer Roger Berlind pronounced himself pleased with the changes Sondheim and Weidman had made. "I'm thrilled with the way it's going," Berlind said. "[They have made] very good changes."

Chicago notices for the brand new work were mixed. Some critics thought the piece needed further definition, while others charges the creators should give the whimsical piece a more serious presentation and the lead characters of Addison and Wilson Mizner a more pointedly symbolic resonance. Good marks were posted for the performers Richard Kind and Michele Pawk and several reviewers found much to admire in the Sondheim score.

Bounce has been in earnest development for several years under different producers and in different versions and with different titles, including Gold and Wise Guys.

The Chicago Bounce company of 19 actors, singers and dancers was led by Gavin Creel, Richard Kind, Herndon Lackey, Howard McGillin, Michele Pawk and Jane Powell in the principal roles.

A deal for an original cast recording is currently in the works. They show may be recording during the Washington run.

Wilson Mizner <i>(left, Howard McGillin)</i> wagers his gold rush claim during a poker game in the Goodman's production of <i>Bounce</i>
Wilson Mizner (left, Howard McGillin) wagers his gold rush claim during a poker game in the Goodman's production of Bounce Photo by Liz Lauren
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