|l. to r. Aimee Doherty and Leigh Barrett in The World Goes ‘Round. (Photos by Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures.)
A good musical revue requires two essentials - a solid repertoire and a first-class ensemble.
In the case of the 1991 revue “The World Goes Round” - now in an exuberant New Repertory Theatre revival, the first is guaranteed with Tony Award caliber material from legendary collaborators John Kander and the late Fred Ebb.
As for the second, talented choreographer-director Ilyse Robbins has been working with five of the Hub’s finest actor-singers: Leigh Barrett, David Costa, Aimee Doherty, De’ Lon Grant and Shannon Lee Jones.
The result was a well-sung evening sparkling with both famous winners and less familiar gems from the Kander and Ebb songbook.
Conceived by choreographer Susan Stroman, director Scott Ellis and librettist David Thompson, “World” began with such light-hearted numbers as “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup” and “Arthur in the Afternoon.”
In the former, Robbins had the ensemble accelerating their singing and circle-like movement repeatedly to demonstrate the widespread appeal of the title beverage. In the latter, Jones, who bares a flattering resemblance to Annette Bening and a corresponding expressiveness, paired up with Grant for humorous if politically incorrect liaisons.
The athletic African American actor does impressive pushups and leg exercises, and the duo bring an appropriate sensuality to their moves.
Occasionally, other standout numbers were narrative ones like “Ring Them Bells” - a song nearly six minutes’ long from the 1972 concert for television “Liza with a Z.”
“Ring Them Bells” shows how Manhattanite Shirley Devore has to travel to Europe to meet her neighbor Norm Saperstein, literally the guy next door, in Dubrovnik, Croatia (then Yugoslavia). Doherty had great spirit as Shirley, and Grant caught all of Norm’s unassuming charm. Eager audience members were picked for volunteer spots as the men that Shirley meets along the way (women were given men’s hats.
Another rightful crowd pleaser was “Money Makes the World Go Around” from “Cabaret.” Here there was considerable hand motion along with the steps - especially as the ensemble did some begging toward the audience when the lyrics ask for a variety of currencies. Jones had the right determination on the dramatic “May be This Time.”
The surprising disappointment in the “Cabaret Group” was the inspired title song itself. Regrettably David Costa - who begins the number alone – did not get to make it a solo standout, as is usually the case.
Instead, a strange attempt at ensemble harmony takes over midway and turns a Kander and Ebb delight into an unsatisfying ensemble.
Happily, most of the combinations and solos were right on target. Barrett and Doherty brought crack timing to the reflective winner “Class” and Costa had the right understatement on the disarming “Mr. Cellophane” - both from “Chicago.”
Barrett delivered the Jacques Brel-like “Colored Lights” with great feeling. Grant displayed his robust voice and strong acting chops on the vivid title number from “The Kiss of the Spider Woman.”
Robbins and New Rep made “The World Goes Round” a real celebration of the inspired collaborations of Kander and Ebb.
"Best of Both Worlds" is a new family musical that features the sounds of both R&B and gospel in a holiday special designed to revisit Shakespearean characters and universal themes of love and jealousy, faith and forgiveness.
The show, presented by the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), features lyrics by Randy Weiner, music by multiple Obie-winner Diedre Murray, and is directed by Tony-nominated Diane Paulus (Director of "Hair" - Tony Winner: Best Musical Revival 2009).
The story line is a soulful version of "The Winter's Tale," Shakespeare's timeless story of heartbreak and redemption. The show runs from Nov. 21 to Jan. 3, 2010 at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge. More »
Sounds of quaking birdsong, monkey chatter and drums greet the audience arriving at the Huntington Theatre Company's riveting production of Lynn Nottage's play "Ruined." The stage set resembles the scene of a tropical party, with palm trees looming over an outdoor bar and bandstand.
Directed by South Africa native Liesl Tommy, this co-production of the Huntington with La Jolla Playhouse and Berkeley Repertory Theatre, on view through Feb. 6, turns the scene into an uneasy world. Here, fear rather than joy may compel a girl to dance and a congenial act - buying someone a drink - can become a way of debasing a man.
Nottage received a 2009 Pulitzer Prize for the play, a clear-eyed close up of how people - women in particular - endure in the wake of horror. More »