Bounce | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Bounce 

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Bounce, Goodman Theatre. The first collaboration in more than 20 years between Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince--the composer-director team responsible for Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd--is a major disappointment. This saga of fortune-seeking brothers Addison and Wilson Mizner, whose escapades from the 1890s to the 1930s "bounce" them repeatedly from rags to riches, veers between madcap farce and maudlin melodrama. Sondheim's peppy, nimbly rhymed songs are pale reworkings of superior material from Follies, Into the Woods, Saturday Night, and the film Dick Tracy. At its best, John Weidman's script evokes the wisecracking comedies of the 30s, and Prince's staging offers some delicious sight gags (including an altar that transforms into a marriage bed). But when Bounce focuses on the dark underside of American adventurism and on the Mizners' sibling rivalry, it turns tedious and preachy.

Nonetheless, this world premiere (read: tryout) is worth seeing for its lead performances. Second City alum Richard Kind's nebbish persona and crack comic timing make him a perfect foil for handsome Howard McGillin, who exudes slick charm as Wilson (and who boasts one of the best baritones in showbiz). Michele Pawk is compelling as the gold digger whose sexual and financial fortunes are intertwined with Wilson's; Gavin Creel is the wealthy youth who inspires architect Addison to turn Palm Beach into a community of camp castles. And movie-musical legend Jane Powell is incandescent as Mama Mizner--a character whose abrupt disappearance after intermission robs Bounce of much needed momentum.

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