Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The World Goes Round"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark

"The World Goes Round"

Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Directed by Peter A. Carey
Musical Direction by Jonathan Goldberg
Choreography by Ilyse Robbins

Scenic Design by Janie F. Howland
Costume Design by Tony Bratton Elliott
Lighting Design by Christopher Ostrom
Stage Manager Laurie A. Light
Assistant Stage Manager Catherine Kemp

Mary Callanan
David Foley, Jr.
Frank Gayton
Christine Maglione
Merle Perkins

Keyboards...........Jonathan Goldberg
Reeds..............................Louis Toth
Trumpet................. .......Paul Peretti
Alternate Trumpet...Harlan Feinstein
Percussion.................Wendy Baisley

The company billing itself as "Boston's off-Broadway" has decided in their newest production to challenge Broadway itself. For their new revue (or is it a cabaret?) The Lyric Stage of Boston presents five Boston actors and an enormous four-piece band doing highlights from the works of Musician John Kander and Lyricist Fred Ebb --- whose musicals have extracted money-money-money from the pockets of Bostonians for Broadway in Boston (or is that SFX?) for decades now. "The World Goes Round" abstracts the chestnuts from their plot-lines so all the ricky-tick and razzmatazz can be delivered right in your laps from the three-quarter thrust stage. But this production adds something (or is it subtracts?) that no Broadway show in Boston will ever do again: There is no "Sound Designer" here. Every note comes to you directly from the throats of these accomplished performers --- all singing, all dancing ...... all Bostonians!

At opening, it looks as though Boston Scenic Designer Janie F. Howland could have phoned in her set: the space is dominated by huge black-and white sketches of Kander & Ebb by theatrical cartoonist Hirschfeld (I couldn't find the third "Nina" can you?) with some outlining with fairy-lights and some Art Deco spots painted on the floor. Yet her design allows full use of a balcony walk-way and a stage-left spiral staircase, so Director Peter A. Carey can open up and use the whole area for continually shifting stage pictures. This and some quick changes of Toni Bratton Elliott's brief, colorful costumes keep the show surprising.

The show brings onstage familiar standards from such unforgettable shows as "Zorba", "The Act", "Funny Lady", "Woman of The Year", "70, Girls, 70", "The Happy Time", "Flora, The Red Menace" and "The Rink" --- as well as little-known gems from such flops as "Kiss of The Spider Woman", "Chicago" and "Cabaret". And there are songs credited to no show at all such as a new interpretation of the man-gone-blues called "My Coloring Book" and a truth-about-dancing expose called "Pain". Merle Perkins and Mary Callanan do a subtly outrageous turn with "(Whatever happened to) Class", while Callanan and Christine Maglione raise the flat repetitions of "The Grass Is Always Greener" to art with their astonishing subtle variations.

Upon occasion, soloists will each take a single song in a connected medley, and then finish with all three intertwined for the final chorus. The final version of "Cabaret" has an arrangement with mind-bending five-part harmony dissonances. The team specializes in songs that slip easily into stop-time big-finishes, and there is a lot of that here. There is also Frank Dayton's "Mr. Cellophane" and "Sometimes A Day Goes By" and David Foley Jr.'s "We Can Make It" and "I don't Remember You" to prove that the quiet song is not dead in Broadway musicals.

One tour de force here is Christine Maglione's sexy romp through "All That ....Jaazzz" in which, with nothing but a derby and an attitude she recreates the wicked essence of Bob Fosse's choreographic style. She handles most of the complicated dancing chores, while Ilyse Robbins handles her quintet in interwoven singing and dancing patterns. And Jonathan Goldberg's tiny orchestra really belts out the hits. John Kander's music is solidly grounded in subtly simple rhythms that stand alone or swell with orchestrations, and Goldberg follows every beat eloquently.

By cutting out all the ear-blowing amplifications, the peripatetic sets, the brand-name stars, the plots, and all the television hype, The Lyric Stage has cut Broadway down to its creative essence of music & lyrics, singers & dancers --- and an engrossed, engaged, enthusiastic audience. They have carried Broadway off-Broadway, and brought it to life here in Boston.


"The World Goes Round" (till 21 May)
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON
1(617) 437-7172

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide