Saturday, April 11, 2015

"And the World Goes 'Round" at Jungle Theater

Legendary musical theater composing duo John Kander and Fred Ebb wrote over a dozen musicals for the American stage, from their early success Cabaret in the 1960s, through their final collaboration Scottsboro Boys, premiering after Ebb's death (with a pre-Broadway engagement at our own Guthrie Theater). And the World Goes 'Round, now playing at the Jungle Theater, is a musical revue of their songs, taking its title from the movie New York, New York. Surprisingly, I've only see four of their shows (including their two most recent ones which are not in this collection), so many of the songs were new to me. It was a delight to hear the work of this talented composing team performed by a fantastic cast of seven.

There's very little dialogue or context for the songs, just one hit after another. Director John Command notes in the playbill that he learned from Liza Minnelli (Kander and Ebb's muse) "to perform every song as if it were 'a one-act play!'" He accomplishes that here, as each song tells a story, whether funny or tragic, and makes me want to see the full musicals from which they came.

the cast of And the World Goes 'Round
(photo by Michel Daniel)
Music director extraordinaire Raymond Berg leads an onstage six-piece band that sounds impossibly smooth. The whole show has a bit of a swanky, jazzy feel, including Bain Boehlke's rich set design and the choreography that's reminiscent of the original shows. The talented cast includes Bradley Greenwald (who memorably played the Emcee in Frank Theater's gloriously seedy production of Cabaret four years ago), Tiffany Seymour, Jon Whittier, Therese Walth, William Gilness, Emily Rose Skinner, and Betti Battocletti.

Highlights include:
  • The title song, which is nicely woven throughout the show and occasionally serves as transitions between songs.
  • A super high energy performance of the song "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup*," a song I love but didn't know it was Kander and Ebb!
  • All of the Chicago songs, including and especially "All That Jazz."
  • Mournful love songs were paired together and a bit overlapped, including Bradley and Bill singing "I Don't Remember You" and "Sometimes a Day Goes By," and Jon, Therese, and Emily singing "We Can Make It," "Maybe This Time," and "Isn't This Better!"
  • A rousing Act I ending number "Life Is" from Zorba, which continues "what you do when you're waiting to die, life is how the time goes by!"
  • Bradley's delicious performance of the title song from Kiss of the Spider Woman (calling local musical theater companies - please stage this show and cast Bradely as the lead!).
  • A very funny double duet of "The Grass is Always Greener" from Woman of the Year by Tiffany, Emily, Bill, and Bradley.
  • A super jazzy version of "Cabaret" featuring the entire company, unlike I've ever heard it sung before.
And the World Goes 'Round is a cleverly staged homage to two of our greatest musical theater composers, beautifully performed by cast and band - a perfectly pleasant evening of musical theater (continuing at the Jungle through May 24).

*You can get Dunn Brothers coffee in a cardboard cup at the concession stand for only a dollar - best coffee deal in town!