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Lyric Stage takes a new spin on Sondheim’s ‘Road Show’

Journal Correspondent

The cast of Stephen Sondheim’s “Road Show.”

From stocks and bonds to bitcoin, it seems the proverbial gold rush is never ending.

Perhaps that’s why now is a good time to revisit a lesser-known gem by lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim called “Road Show,” which will be performed by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston from Jan. 12 to Feb. 11.

Originally entitled “Bounce” and then “Wise Guys” and “Gold!,” the show tells the story of Floridian architect Addison Mizner and his entrepreneurial playwright brother Wilson’s cross-country trip that included the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800s and later the real estate boom in Boca Raton, Fla.

Despite the Sondheim style and such stars as Victor Garber, Richard Kind, and Nathan Lane on Broadway, the play has not had the stellar run of other Sondheim sensations (“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Sunday in the Park With George,” “Into the Woods”).

In the Lyric’s new production, music director Jonathan Goldberg is looking to work some magic.

Despite the Sondheim pedigree, Goldberg suggested that reworking a show is no shame.

“I think it’s much more common now for writers to be willing to take a second look at their shows after the first major production,” said Goldberg, “as opposed to what we might call the ‘golden age’ of musicals, when all of the adjusting was done merely in tryouts … and then the show was usually left as is for posterity.”

Citing Sondheim specifically, Goldberg said he has revisited and revised many of his shows. One significant example is the eventually popular “Merrily We Roll Along,” which was reworked after an opening that featured “Seinfeld” star Jason Alexander and Broadway director Lonny Price.

“The version of the show that gets produced today is much different than the one that played Broadway in 1981,” Goldberg said.

“In the case of “Road Show,” Goldberg suggested that Sondheim and book writer John Weidman felt the need to “experiment with the specifics of the story they were telling, and also the theatrical language they were using to tell it.”

Goldberg said he finds Sondheim’s music and shows “incredibly emotional and thrilling. His musical language speaks to me in a compelling way. And his lyrics are so clever but also so authentic in the way they reveal the human condition. Who wouldn’t want to keep working with material like that?”
While he started his own musical career as a pianist, Goldberg quickly realized that he wanted to work with singers.
“I was falling in love with opera, and musical theater as well,” he recalled. “Something about the unique expressiveness of the voice, and the excitement of theater.”
Realizing that his skill set leaned more toward accompanying than performing out front, Goldberg went back to piano. Even so, as he is keen to point out, “perhaps unlike many 13-year-old boys, I absolutely relished being able to sing at my bar-mitzvah!”
At this point in his career, Goldberg said he’s grateful to have an opportunity to work with the Lyric’s artist director Spiro Veloudos – who has developed many of Sondheim’s works – and especially to help lead a production of such a unique show.
“To have the privilege of showcasing a Sondheim musical that isn’t so well known yet,” Goldberg said, “is the show itself.”
The Lyric Stage Company of Boston is located at 140 Clarendon St.  For ticket prices and show times, call 617-585-5678 or visit lyricstage.com.

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