Cabaret, “All That Jazz,” Chicago, “Maybe This Time,” “The Money Song,” Kiss Of The Spider Woman, “My Coloring Book,” “New York, New York” … When you hear the names Kander & Ebb, the list of hit shows and songs goes on and on, so much so that by the year 1991, the time had come for a musical revue saluting John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Greatest Hits, and the Drama Desk Award-winning And The World Goes ‘Round (conceived by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman, and David Thompson) was born.

Though now officially licensed as The World Goes Round, the revue’s latest revival at the NoHo Arts Center gives it back its original ‘91 title, a decision fully in keeping with this sensational, back-to-its-roots staging of one of the most entertaining, tune-packed song cycles in musical theater history.

Kristin, Ryan, Emily, Isaac, Erica

Director Gary Lee Reed sticks to the storyline-free ‘91 format, with cast members listed simply as Man One, Woman Two, etc., but don’t let this fool you into thinking that And The World Goes ‘Round is going to be run-of-the-mill in any way shape or form. Reed is a director with a vision … and a cast more than capable of bringing that vision to exciting life.

With triple-threats Emily King Brown, Erica Hanrahan-Ball, Isaac James, Ryan Ruge, and Kristin Towers-Rowles accompanied (and occasionally joined in song) by musical director Joshua Eli Kranz, and choreographer Noel Britton giving them plenty of fancy footwork to accompany their powerhouse vocals, this is one smashing Kander & Ebb revival from start to finish, and one which features songs not only from the team’s most celebrated Broadway blockbusters but also from Flora, The Red Menace, The Happy Time, Zorba, 70, Girls, 70, The Act, Woman of the Year, and The Rink.

The NoHo Arts Center’s 45-seat second stage gives And The World Goes ‘Round an intimacy rare for a musical revue of so much pizzazz, and solos like Brown’s exquisite “My Coloring Book,” Hanrahan-Ball’s belty “All That Jazz,” James’ operatic “Kiss Of The Spider Woman,” Towers-Rowles’ delicate “A Quiet Thing,” and Ruge’s passionate “Marry Me” give audiences the rare thrill of hearing cabaret-style performances sung without a single mike in sight.

KristinEricaEmilyWGR_0609 copy
Kristin, Erica, Emily

Reed’s staging of And The World Goes ‘Round features production numbers galore, choreographed by Britton with abundant imagination and flair and performed by a cast who can dance as well as they can vocalize, numbers like “Yes,” with its Fosse-Bennett-Robbins-inspired moves; “Coffee In A Cardboard Cup,” which puts the quintet through a rigorous workout indeed; “Me & My Baby,” which has the entire fivesome doing some nifty ukulele-strumming; “The Rink,” which gets them all on roller skates; and “Ring Them Bells,” which has them doing just that, though perhaps not in the way you might imagine. Add to that other big song-and-dance numbers like “Pain,” “The Money Song,” and a multilingual “New York, New York” and you’ve got one cheer-eliciting show-stopper after another.

Then there are the duets, beginning with a pair of bona fide crowd-pleasers performed by Brown and Hanrhan-Ball. “Class” has the female duo in “old broad” mode trading zingers like “Whatever happened to ‘Please, may I?’ and ‘Yes, thank you,’ and ‘How charming?’ Now every son of a bitch is a snake in the grass. Whatever happened to class?” Later, in “The Grass Is Always Greener,” A-list celebrity Hanrahan-Ball and New Jersey housewife Brown compare lives to hilarious effect.

Kristin and Joshua
On a more serious note, there are James’ “I Don’t Remember You” and Kranz’s “Sometimes A Day Goes By” sung in heartbreaking counterpoint, and another pair of gorgeous counterpoint ballads, Ruge’s “Marry Me” and Towers-Rowles’ “A Quiet Thing,” which the duo follow with an exquisitely performed pas de deux.

The tight harmonies of “Yes” and “There Goes the Ball Game,” Ruge’s droll “Mr. Cellophane,” Towers-Rowles’ “City Lights” and her saucy “Arthur in the Afternoon” accompanied by James in strong-and-silent mode as said Arthur, Hanrahan-Ball’s sexy “How Lucky Can You Get?” (and she is indeed lucky to be backed by James and Ruge), and Ruge’s romantic salute to “Sara Lee” with the entire cast, Sara Lee boxes in hand, to back him up—all of these are musical numbers to shout about.

Ryan_Ruge_Isaac_James_WGR_0055 copy
Ryan and Isaac
And there are even more vocal showcases—for Brown’s pitch-perfect legit soprano in “My Coloring Book” and her Broadway belt in “Maybe This Time” and Hanrahan-Ball’s marvelous pipes in a poignant “Colored Lights.” Kranz not only tickles the ivories throughout but has his own terrific vocal solos in “And The World Goes Round” and “The Happy Time.” Finally, there’s James’ moving “We Can Make It” sung to his male costar Ruge (doing some powerful reacting) in a welcome acknowledgement of same-sex love.

Joining pianist Kranz in accompanying the cast’s vocals is drummer-percussionist Alex Stickels, the duo keeping volume levels at just the right balance to allow the audience to hear both instrumentalists and singers.

And The World Goes Round looks smashing, beginning with scenic designer Thomas S. Giamario’s elegant black nightclub set, lit with both subtlety and razzmatazz by Matt Richter. Daniel Mahler has designed one stunning outfit after another for the revue’s very attractive cast.

And The World Goes Round is produced by Racquel Lehrman for Theatre Planners. Victoria Watson is associate producer. Peppur Chambers is casting director. Carole Ursetti is production stage manager.

John Kander and Fred Ebb went on to write three more Broadway musicals after 1992’s Kiss Of The Spider Woman—Steel Pier, Curtains, and The Scottsboro Boys. Still, it’s their earlier work that has proved their most enduring, something which this wow of a revival makes abundantly clear.

NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
February 2, 2013
Photos: Ed Krieger

Comments are closed.