Thursday, August 28, 2008

The World Goes 'Round review

My review appears in this week's WE.

The World Goes 'Round

By Andrea Warner

Responsible for some of the naughtiest musical theatre of the 20th century (Cabaret, Chicago), as well as some of the most poignant (Flora the Red Menace, The Happy Time), John Kander and Fred Ebb’s songs are the perfect fodder for a musical revue.

Debuting off Broadway in 1991, The World Goes ’Round comprises a liberal cross-section of Kander and Ebb’s songs, jazz-handing with easy grace between sassy and sad, wise-ass and wistful. It’s a marvelous match for some of the big voices behind Another Musical Co-Op, the young talent pool responsible for this invigorating and inspired staging.

The opening number and the revue’s titular song, performed by Sarah Gay, starts off with quiet restraint and crescendos to a bold, breathtaking finish, and it serves as a preview of the unintended gender war among the cast, which the women win hands down. (This might be due to Kander and Ebb’s proclivity for writing songs suited to their muses, Liza Minelli and Chita Rivera.) The men, Jeremy Crittenden and Timothy Gledhill, though funny, charming, and blessed with pleasant pitch, can’t quite keep pace.

Gay has been saddled with the majority of the torch-burners and ballads, and her voice shakes the small room. Some of Gay’s best moments permit her to flex her comedic chops (mostly opposite the wonderful Alison MacDonald), particularly during “Class.” MacDonald, a playful pixie with brilliant timing and a troublemaking twinkle in her eye, opens the second act with a rooftop-raising “Ring Them Bells.” Jennifer Neumann does sexy and sweet with a pro’s approach to swingin’ hips, but her quiet voice can’t meet the demands of “All That Jazz,” faring better during “A Quiet Thing.”

Some of this revue’s strongest moments are the ensemble ones, which is a testament to the cast’s kinetic chemistry. The choreography is inventive, owing much to the great Bob Fosse, but also updated by director Shane Snow and Melissa Young, and staged with clever props (rollerblades, bells, some cute advertising) to beautifully meld past and present. A great world to watch go ’round again and again.

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