Road Show
Get-rich-quick schemes fuel this freewheeling musical adventure of two brothers and their pursuit of the American Dream.
Show Essentials
+ Ensemble

Full Synopsis

The early 1930s. Palm Beach, Florida. Addison Mizner is on a bed, surrounded by trunks, packing crates, old furniture, and people. He promptly dies. The door to one of the packing crates flies open revealing Wilson Mizner, Addison's brother. The people begin to berate Addison for making a waste of his life ("Waste"). Addison and Wilson start to squabble like children until they are interrupted by Mama Mizner -- the scene shifts to their father's deathbed in the early 1890s. Papa admonishes the boys that America is now their nation to mold ("It's In Your Hands Now"). Papa then dies and Mama reveals that the family is broke. Addison, Wilson, and Mama are considering what to do next when a prospector appears, proclaiming the Gold Rush in the Yukon ("Gold!"). Addison doesn't like the sound of it, but Mama is enthusiastic and Wilson persuades him.

In Alaska, Addison and Wilson are luckless, miserable, and freezing. When Wilson's sleeping bag rips, Addison offers to share his. Huddled awkwardly together, the brothers reminisce about their shared childhood ("Brotherly Love"). A frustrated Wilson leaves for town to get supplies, where he is drawn into a poker game by a gang of cardsharps ("The Game"). Wilson is green but picks the game up quickly. He's winning when Addison appears, irate about being abandoned. Addison has, however, finally found gold. Wilson persuades him to bet their claim by explaining his newfound philosophy. They win, but the ghost of Papa appears to chastise Addison for tawdry behavior. Wilson trades the claim for the saloon, which infuriates Addison, who takes his share of their winnings and storms off.

Seeking to make his own fortune, Addison embarks on a peripatetic adventure traveling from Hawaii to Bombay to Hong Kong to Guatemala. Each business venture he tries turns into a disaster, and he is left with only a pile of souvenirs. Slowly, he realizes that he has a talent for arranging these disparate knickknacks -- an artist's eye for design -- and vows to build a house to hold them all ("Addison's Trip"). Wilson and Mama appear. They've been having their own adventures, traveling across the country. The two catch up with Addison in New York City, where he has his first architectural commission: a pool house for wealthy widow Myra Yerkes. Before Addison can complete the deal, however, Wilson woos Myra and marries her, then proceeds to squander her fortune on a variety of risky ventures, all in a whirl of alcohol, cocaine, women, and publicity ("That Was A Year").

In the meantime, Addison has been caring for ailing Mama. Increasingly frustrated that he can't get Wilson to visit her or pay him for his pool house project, Addison listens as Mama explains her adoration for her prodigal son ("Isn't He Something!"). Mama dies just as Wilson, who is high on drugs, finally arrives. He reveals cheerfully that Myra has tossed him out, which coincidentally means the end of Addison's commission. In revenge, Addison cruelly allows Wilson to discover Mama's body. Wilson is horrified, the brothers fight, and Addison throws Wilson out.

A real estate agent appears -- the spiritual twin of a Yukon prospector -- announcing a real estate boom in Florida ("Land Boom!"). Addison heads south on a train, where he meets handsome young Hollis Bessemer, who has just been disowned by his industrialist father. He's headed to Palm Beach, where his aunt and uncle are looking for a place to build a house. Hollis hopes to build an artists' colony and needs their support ("Talent"). Addison tags along with Hollis and charms his aunt, Eva Stotesbury, into hiring him as her architect. The extraordinary house which he builds touches off a mansion-building competition among rivalrous rich families ("You"). Hollis and Addison make a good team, in business and in love ("The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened").

Addison becomes addicted to success and cocaine, and when a down-and-out Wilson appears begging for favors and forgiveness, Addison rubs his face in it. Wilson collapses ("The Game [Reprise]"). During his recovery, Wilson persuades Hollis to embrace his original impulse to be a patron of the arts. Then they go to work on Addison, who is won over and begins designing a utopian metropolis ("Addison's City"). Hollis provides funding and Wilson becomes a consummate pitchman for the soon-to-be built dream city of Boca Raton. Everything spins out of control, with Wilson making increasingly gaudy and fraudulent promises, and Addison supporting him ("Boca Raton"). Finally, when Hollis challenges Wilson and Addison sides with his brother, Hollis withdraws his money and support, walks out on Addison, and the project collapses. Addison, realizing that he has once again been a willing patsy in one of Wilson's schemes, screams at him to leave ("Get Out"). Wilson counters with his own emotional pragmatism ("Go").

We transition back to a bed, where Addison is dying -- just as he did at the beginning. A packing crate flies open and Wilson emerges. This time, however, he's as dead as his brother. He joins Addison in bed and, as best they can, the brothers finally reconcile ("Finale").



Cast Size: Flexible Cast Size
Cast Type: Mainly Men
Dance Requirements: None

Character Breakdown

Addison Mizner
The levelheaded brother living in the shadows of Wilson's schemes. A visionary artist with flair and guile. Cares for his mother. Not as prone to seizing the world as his brother. Easily influenced by his older brother.
Gender: male
Age: 30 to 45
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: F3
Wilson Mizner
Handsome and charming. Always has a good time, but also lowlife con artist involved in a series of scams. Lives his life as one big, adventurous attempt to seize opportunity. The greedy, selfish brother to Addison.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 50
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: F3
Hollis Bessemer
An honest businessman who rejects the family business to build his dream of an artist colony. Partners with Addison to create an extremely successful real estate business and finally a fortune of his own. Sensitive. Loves Addison.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 30
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Mama Mizner
Mother to Addison and Wilson. Encourages her sons to follow opportunity by any means necessary. Coddles Wilson, whom she clearly favors, and ultimately loses him to his own greed. Depends on Addison to take care of her.
Gender: female
Age: 60 to 65
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Papa Mizner
Father to Addison and Wilson. On his deathbed, he tells his sons to embrace the opportunities of the new world. Proud. Nostalgic.
Gender: male
Age: 65 to 75
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Poker Players; Miners; Hawaiians; Indians; Chinese Men; Guatemalans; Business Partners; Reporters; Real Estate Customers; Boca Girls; Songwriters
Full Song List
Road Show: What A Waste (Prologue)
Road Show: It's In Your Hands Now
Road Show: Gold! - Part I
Road Show: Brotherly Love
Road Show: The Game
Road Show: Addison's Trip
Road Show: New York Sequence (That Was A Year)
Road Show: Isn't He Something!
Road Show: Land Boom!
Road Show: Talent
Road Show: You
Road Show: The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened
Road Show: The Game (Reprise)
Road Show: Addison's City
Road Show: Boca Raton
Road Show: Finale

Show History


Road Show tells the story of real-life brothers, Addison and Wilson Mizner, as they adventures across America from the beginning of the 20th century during the Alaskan Gold rush to the Florida real estate boom in the 1920s.


Road Show premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop from October through November 1999 under the title Wise Guys. It was directed by Sam Mendes and starred Nathan Lane and Victor Garber as brothers Addison Mizner and Wilson Mizner.

In 2003, a substantially rewritten version, retitled Bounce,  opened on June 20, 2003 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. The production was directed by Harold Prince, with choreography by Michael Arnold, set design by Eugene Lee, costume design by Miguel Angel Huidor, and lighting design by Howell Binkley.

A new production of the musical, this time titled Road Show, rewritten without an intermission, opened Off-Broadway at The Public Theatre's Newman Theater in previews on October 28, 2008. Road Show officially opened on November 18, and closed December 28, 2008. John Doyle was the director and designer.

Road Showthen went to London, where it began previews at the Menier Chocolate Factory on June 24, 2011, and opened on July 6. It closed on September 18. John Doyle again directed the production.

The US regional premier opened at Stages Repertory Theater in Houston, Texas on May 22, 2013, directed by Kenn McLaughlin.

Road Show came back to Chicago in 2014, where it played at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. It opened on March 13 and starred Andrew Rothenberg as Wilson and Michael Aaron Lidner as Addison.

Cultural Influence

  • An original cast recording of the 2003 version (then titled Bounce) was released on May 4, 2004 by Nonesuch Records.
  • An original cast recording of the 2008 Public Theater production was made by PS Classics and Nonesuch Records, and was released on June 30, 2009.
  • Authors Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman are known for creating on challenging, outside-the-box musicals like Road Show. There previous collaborations include Assassins and Pacific Overtures.


  • Authors Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman moved through 3 titles before finally landing on the fourth, Road Show. The previous titles were Bounce, Wise Guys and GOLD!
  • The 2003 Goodman Theatre production starred Richard Kind (Addison Mizner), Howard McGillin (Wilson Mizner), Jane Powell (Mama Mizner), Herndon Lackey (Papa Mizner/Businessman/Englishman/Plantation Owner/Armstrong/Real Estate Owner), Gavin Creel (Hollis Bessemer), and Michele Pawk (Nellie).
  • The 2008 Public Theater cast featured Michael Cerveris and Alexander Gemignani playing brothers Wilson and Addison Mizner respectively, Alma Cuervo as Mama, Claybourne Elder as Hollis, and William Parry as Papa.

Critical Reaction

"[Sondheim's] extraordinary gift for stealthily weaving dark motifs into a brighter musical fabric is definitely in evidence, mellifluously rendered in the peerless Jonathan Tunick's orchestrations." - Ben Brantley, The New York Times



Based on the story of Wilson and Addison Mizner


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ROAD SHOW (100%)
Music and Lyrics by STEPHEN SONDHEIM (50%)
Book by JOHN WEIDMAN (50%)

Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick (25%)

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Originally commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
"Bounce," an earlier version of this play, was originally produced by the Goodman Theatre, Chicago, Illinois on June 30, 2003 (Robert Falls, Artistic Director; Roche Schulfer, Executive Director).
Off-Broadway premiere of "Road Show" by the Public Theater in New York City in 2008 (Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director; Andrew D. Hamingson, Executive Director).
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