Vol. 10, No. 2 Fall 2003
For Your Amusement
In the Summer 2003 issue, The Sondheim Review published separate interviews with Richard Kind and Howard McGillin before they started work on their roles as Addison and Wilson Mizner in Bounce. Midway through the run at the Goodman Theater, they sat down with TSR for a joint update.
TSR: Now that you've been playing the roles for some weeks, what are you discovering about Addison and Wilson?
Howard McGillin (Wilson): One of the surprises has been the strong love that I sense between them, despite all of the treachery and betrayal that occurs, mostly at the hands of Wilson. I love the way the show ends with their arms around each other. I mean, families are like that. They betray each other and mistreat each other. But at the end of the day, they make up. That's life.
Richard Kind (Addison): It's a blood-is-thicker-than-water type of thing. There's a bond between the brothers, even though their early life together is not explored here.
McGillin: There isn't time to flesh out relationships, yet these characters are so rich. And you know, a lot of the work is done by Sondheim's lyrics. They're so specific to character. He never chooses a word without considering its impact on the character and on telling the story.
Kind: Today I was listening to the song that Hollis (Bessemer) sings on the train. There are some people- -especially here in Chicago--who don't realize until Hollis and I kiss later that we are gay, we are lovers. They don't realize that Hollis, right from the get-go, is gay. But what he says in his song tells volumes about him. His first line is "When I was a tyke/I said, 'What I like/Is art./I know I'm a boy,/But what I enjoy/Is art'" But you've got to listen, and you have to digest that, because Sondheim is saying, "This is the type of man I am--my proclivity toward the arts. I'm a male, but what I like is not what typical men like."
TSR: What are your favorite moments in the show?
McGillin: It's still a blur. There has been an extraordinary rush to get to this point, but it's also a blur. You feel like you're being swept down river by a current, and of course we're beginning to navigate and we're beginning to know where we can pace it. I have to say that the last two songs--the "get out of my life and go" and "Bounce"--well, it's a thrill to sing them and it's a thrill to be there and sung to.
Kind: When I get to the Boca Raton number, I go, OK, after this there's no getting offstage. You're going to break down, you're going to have an epiphany, and you're going to spend the next fifteen minutes just delving into your emotions. Even though some days I feel like saying I'd rather go out and have a sandwich.
McGillin: I've never had a role that was more physically challenging.
Kind: Me neither.
McGillin: At the very top of the show, I'm wearing two suits--two wool suits. Thank you very much, Miguel Huidor (the costume designer). And beyond that, it's a physical marathon. It's actually Act Two, Scene Two by the time I get a bathroom break. Not even during intermission, because I have to change everything down to my underwear and run back upstairs to my place in the Belmont scene. You know, I'm in better shape than I've ever been.
Kind: My first fifty minutes of the show, I'm never offstage. I'm running around and I really sweat. In
fact, I came to work today a little sick and I sweated out my illness.
Kind: I think that is still the message.
McGillin: I do, too.
Kind: I think the reason they cut it was that it was too simplistic. But it's about America. It's about get-rich-quick.
McGillin: The show begins at the end of the last frontier. This was a time when California was finally settled, and people were saying there's no frontier left. Well, then the Yukon gold rush happened, and then the land booms and the other things the Mizners were involved in. They were right there.
Kind: And if you want to apply it to today's world, there's plenty we still need to bounce back from. The stock market, if you want to talk about money. New York has to bounce back.
McGillin: And the greed, of course, the corporate greed.
Kind: Enron. Even though this was a tale so many years ago, it's still applicable today.
TSR: Has the show changed since the opening?
McGillin: Since the opening, no, but in previews, before the critics came.
Kind: He had the lion's share of the changes.
McGillin: A lot of lyric and dialogue changes, and you know it takes a while to get that into your bones. For a while you feel like you're being pulled by the undercurrent and tossed onto the beach.
TSR: What has been the reaction to the reviews?
McGillin: Well, I don't read them. I learned a long time ago it does me no good. And you know there has not been much discussion about them here, and that's healthy because this show is still aborning. There are plans to work on this, to make it better.
Kind: I do read reviews, and I'm very subjective about the play, but I can be very objective about the reviews. I did not agree with the reviews, and what was really sad was that I saw nothing that could be taken from the reviews and applied to the show in constructive terms. I don't think the creative powers should listen to them because nothing was in there to say that this was good, but it could be better, or this was bad, do this.
McGillin: These are three masters of their craft, John (Weidman), Hal (Prince) and Steve (Sondheim). If they don't know how to do this, a critic is not going to tell them how. And I think they know we had only nine performances before we opened, so obviously certain things were put on the back burner. Things they started to see but they said, "Well, OK, this is where we need to change direction, but we can't do that now. We have to get the show open."
Kind: And we had a responsibility to the Goodman Theater to open on June 30. Four weeks of rehearsals and nine previews is a little better than summer stock, but it ain't that much better, and it certainly isn't Broadway. The other thing, which I really feel is unfair, is that the Chicago Tribune review was printed in the L.A. Times, which does have an effect.
McGillin: It's so unfair. The whole idea of coming to Chicago or going anywhere to work on a show for the first time is to get away from the media market. Obviously, Chicago is a huge city and a big important press center, but this show is just beginning. It's had a long gestation period, but so what? This is the first time it's been on its feet in front of an audience in a full production, and it's such a different show from what was done in the New York workshop three years ago. You've got to give it a chance.
I take serious issue with New York press people coming to Chicago and sniffing around and writing nasty comments about the show just because they have their daggers bared and are ready to go for the jugular. This show is a rich, thrilling experience to be part of, and I think it's only going to continue to develop and grow and get better and better.
TSR: Why should we care about Addison and Wilson?
McGillin: That's a tough one.
Kind: There is no reason inherently that you should care about them unless you think that their story is interesting, and I think it's a pretty interesting story. The Tribune did not. The guy in the Tribune said he thought the show was "eh." I don't think it is "eh."
McGillin: I think Addie is the heart of the show. He's the sympathetic one, the one who gets punched, as he says in the show. He takes a while to find himself, but finally he finds a great wealth of talent and focus in his life. I think there is plenty of reason to care about him. He's funny, he's sweet, he loves his mother, he's got enormous heart. He's a great guy with a fatal flaw. As Willie says in the last song, "It's your curse that you love me."
Willie is a little more problematic in terms of why you should care about him. But he provides an enormous ballast for the show. You're not going to care about Wilson, God knows, as you do about Addison.
Kind: But you're intrigued by him because you know people like that. The no-goodniks who don't do it out of spite but because they don't know any other way. He's immoral, while Addie is totally moral. He's a mensch. And I think it's very interesting that these two brothers are so diverse, and they come from the same family.
McGillin: Steve Sondheim said that what fascinated him was the concept of Wilson being the jack-of-all -trades and master of none. Someone who has great facilities but doesn't have one that dominates his character. He continues to flail about, trying all different things.
Steve also said he was drawn to dark characters, and I am, too. Part of the reason why people are fascinated with Wilson is that he breaks all the rules, and we're taught that we're supposed to follow the rules, and there's a reward if we do. Wilson never believes that for a second. Obviously, this is a fascinating and rich character to play, and I love playing it.
TSR: You said before that Hollis gave clues to his sexual orientation in his song. Does Addie give any clues?
Kind: There really aren't, and I've had arguments with Gavin (Creel, who plays Hollis) about this. I say I'll go down to Greenwich Village for my sexual awakening, and Gavin says you're always sexually aware. But there's a line where I say we could open an antiques shop.
McGillin: There are clues, but it's not an important part of this story.
Kind: It becomes important because Addison comes into his own, and somebody comes into his life, which he didn't have before.
TSR: Can you sum up your thoughts about Bounce?
Kind: I wish we could work on it while we're here. I'd love to put things in.
McGillin: But John and Steve and Hal are coming back. I think they were right to let us have some breathing time.
Kind: When they left, we just did the show, with no expectations except for the audience. It's been wonderful. It makes me feel good, and it's not always a feel-good musical.
TSR: There are dark places.
Kind: That's what I love about it. It works on so many levels. Hal said he hoped that audiences like this play because they haven't seen anything like it for a long time, and I really don't think they have. The music is accessible, the story is accessible. It's beautifully constructed. The book scenes are so strong- -do I dare say they are like Williams? Or Miller? It's entertaining, and when it's not entertaining, it's still interesting, and it's effective if you're open to it.
McGillin: It affects me every night.
Kind: I know the play needs work, but the crazy thing is, I don't know where. I don't know where or how.
McGillin: It's impossible to know when you're in the middle of it.
Kind: It's terrific. I love this show.
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