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Theater review: Sondheim's 'Road Show' worthwhile, adventurous undertaking

Published: Thursday, Jan. 9 2014 4:00 p.m. MST

Quinn Kapetanov stars as Wilson Mizner and Cameron Kapetanov as Addison Mizner in Wasatch Theatre Company's "Road Show."

Wasatch Theatre Company

“Road Show,” Wasatch Theatre Company, Studio Theatre, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, through Jan. 18, $15, 801-355-ARTS (2787) or arttix.org

There’s more to Stephen Sondheim than “Into the Woods.”

Granted, with its characters based on reimagined classic fairy tales, “Into the Woods” is one of the most accessible shows for which the titanic Sondheim wrote both the music and lyrics, partially explaining its popularity in Utah. Yet there is a vast treasure trove of compositions by the most important creative force in musical theater for the past half-century that are embarrassingly unknown by the state’s casual theatergoer.

Sondheim personally received two Tonys for “Into the Woods,” but his total tally is eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer) and a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. And there’s the Pulitzer Prize for Drama he won for his “Sunday in the Park,” which leads the list of musicals criminally unknown in the state, followed by “Company,” “Passion,” “A Little Night Music” and “Follies.” (There are two minor exceptions, but they are infrequently performed in the state: “Sweeney Todd” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”)

As a boon to those intrigued by Sondheim’s works, Wasatch Theatre Company stages the regional premiere of “Road Show,” his latest show that has uncharacteristically had a long and tortuous journey from idea to finished product. And this latest musical is undeniably worthwhile while still somewhat problematic.

“Road Show” chronicles the fascinating saga of real-life brothers Wilson and Addison Mizner, entrepreneur/adventurers whose exploits spanned the Alaska gold rush and the 1920s Florida real-estate boom. During the era when capitalistic excess was all the rage, the Mizners’ hucksterism and opportunism made the pair minor celebrities. Addison is fondly remembered in Boca Raton, Fla., the unique architectural excessive style of which he developed and created, but their names now are nearly forgotten.

The exploits of the Mizners, skillfully played by actor brothers Cameron and Quinn Kapetanov, are here used to portray the morally ambivalent aspects of the American Dream. The story then takes a turn to examine the warm and inextricable bonding of siblings.

There is much comedy in “Road Show,” and Rick Rea’s direction capably mines the comic aspects and balances it with satisfying, swift pacing.

There are fine performances throughout. Supporting the Kapetanovs are notable work from Marc Neilson as Papa Mizner and Karrie Ann Ogilvie as Mama. Amid the strong nine-member supporting cast, Stewart Fullerton, Tamara Sleight and Brian Kesler impress. Sadly, the talent of Derek Gregerson, in the featured role of love interest Hollis Bessemer, was not fully on display due to a bad head cold at this performance.

Theatergoers should note that the occasional strong language would probably earn a film an R rating.

What was frustrating about the production was its modest vocal prowess. “The Best Thing That Ever Happened” is a poignant love ballad, and “The Game,” “Boca Raton” and “Get Out/Go” are vivid compositions that advance the plot forward but lack the bounce and vocal dynamics they require.

Yet Wasatch should be rewarded for taking on an unknown gem of contemporary musical theater that very likely will not be soon again considered for production.

Content advisory: occasional strong language

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