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date: 28 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Stephen Sondheim’s most recent musical was based on one of his oldest ideas. As early as 1952 the composer-lyricist became fixated on the real-life misadventures of Addison and Wilson Mizner, misfit brothers who became legendary for their colossal business failures in the early twentieth century. Road Show, the musical Sondheim and librettist John Weidman finally wrote about the Mizners, underwent many transformations between 1999 and 2008 (including the adoption of two other titles: Wise Guys and Bounce). But the most significant changes were tonal, from an initially vaudevillian travelogue comedy to an antiromantic one-act chamber musical. This final, now authoritative version delivered an emotional impact exceeding most previous works by this notoriously “all head, no heart” dramatist and offered a harsh vision of the materialist mania of the American Dream.

Keywords: Stephen Sondheim, John Weidman, Addison Mizner, Wilson Mizner, John Doyle, Harold Prince, American architecture

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