You may think you’ve seen The World Goes ‘Round before—the hit musical revue featuring 30 mostly little-known Kander & Ebb songs performed cabaret-style by a cast of 5. Yes, indeed, you may think you’ve seen The World Goes ‘Round (or And The World Goes ‘Round if you will), but trust me, you’ve never seen The World Goes Round as Downey Civic Light Opera executive producer Marsha Moode has reconceived it as a TV variety show-style extravaganza featuring 41 Kander & Ebb songs,  including many of their Greatest Hits, as performed by cast of 37. Purists may carp, but for those in the Moode for two-and-a half hours of pure entertainment (with a bunch of Kander & Ebb trivia thrown in for good measure), the Downey Civic Light Opera’s The World Goes ‘Round more than fits the bill.

10871_10151314989851973_2027146434_n The fifth in what has become a series of annual winter salutes to the songs of yesteryear (previous revues have included celebrations of Rodgers & Hart, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter), The World Goes ‘Round reunites DCLO stars Charlotte Carpenter, Joseph Culliton, Andrea Dodson, John Racca, and Karen Volpe, introduces Equity Guest Performers Leslie Tinnaro and Victoria Strong to the DCLO stage, and gives Downey regulars William Crisp, Glenn Edward, Timothy Hearl, Denai Lovrien, Michael McGreal, Alessha McNeff, Laura Rensing, Katie Toussaint, Kit Wilson, and Kyle Van Amburgh their very own moments in the spotlight.

Equity Guest Performers Culliton and Racca play none other than composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb themselves, as they take us on a journey through the duo’s over four-decade collaboration, beginning with their first Broadway musical, Flora, The Red Menace, all the way up to the 2002 film adaptation of Chicago, with stops along the way at Cabaret, The Happy Time, Zorba, 70, Girls, 70, Chicago, Woman of the Year, The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, the TV special Liza With A “Z,” and the movies Funny Lady and New York, New York. Adding their own perspectives to DCLO’s Kander & Ebb bio-revue are “Lauren Bacall,” “Liza Minnelli,” “Chita Rivera,” and “Gwen Verdon,” each with her own John & Fred story to tell, and real-life Tinnaro, who nearly got to star in Zorba … twice, recounting hers.

Still, it’s the performances that make The World Goes ‘Round so memorable, beginning with its four Equity stars. Culliton gets “A Certain Girl” (the only Kander & Ebb song I didn’t recognize) and “A Quiet Thing,” reminding DCLO audiences that their Henry Higgins is quite a singer. Racca solos “Kiss Of The Spider Woman,” “Sometimes A Day Goes By,” and “We Can Make It” gorgeously, and the twosome duet “I Don’t Care Much” and “Razzle Dazzle.” Tinnaro lends her smoky vocals to “Life Is,” “Tomorrow Belongs To Me,” and the title song. Strong proves that she can belt as splendidly as she can sing legit in “How Lucky Can You Get,” “Isn’t This Better,” and “So What.”

The sensational Carpenter and Volpe get their own chances to sing the heck out of Kander and Ebb gems, the former with “Maybe This Time” and “Perfectly Marvelous,” the latter with “Ring Them Bells” and “There Goes The Ball Game,” and together with the hilarious Rich Woman Poor Woman duet “The Grass Is Always Greener.” And when Carpenter, Strong, and Tinnaro join voices for “Cabaret,” the star power is high wattage indeed.

Other solos include lovely vocal performances by McNeff (“Only Love”), Dodson (“A Quiet Thing” and “My Coloring Book”), and Rodin (“Colored Lights”), and the resonant male pipes of Crisp (“Mr. Cellophane”), Edward (“I Don’t Remember You”), McGreal (“Sara Lee”), Van Amburgh (“Me And My Baby,” duetted with McNeff), Wilson (“Married,” danced with his real-life spouse Dee, and “Wilkomen”), and Hearl (“All I Care About Is Love”). Mel Domingo, Toussaint, and Van Amburgh each get to reprise a chorus of “The World Goes Round.” Crisp, Edward, McGreal, and Wilson are reunited in their barbershop harmonies for “A Certain Girl” and “The Happy Time.” Finally, Downey newcomer Joshua LaMonte proves himself as terrific a singer as he is a dancer with “Marry Me” and “Why Should I Wake Up.”

And speaking of dancers, The World Goes ‘Round features some of the best I’ve seen on a Downey stage, beginning with the leggy duo of Lovrien and Rensing, the former a spellbinding Spider Woman, the latter leading a showstopping “All That Jazz” (more about this later) and together doing their best Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly in “Nowadays.” As for the men, Hanz Enyeart, Carlos Ferrusca, and LaMonte are every bit as razzle-dazzling on their dancing feet as their female counterparts.

There wouldn’t be the above dance numbers without the creative gifts of choreographer Nathan Wise, who gets his cast of dancers and movers performing at the peak of their talents in “Coffee In A Cardboard Cup,” “I Move On,” “New York New York,” and Kander & Ebb’s salute to every dancer’s companion, “Pain.” Best (and hottest) of all is the Act One finale—Rensing and company performing a sizzling “All That Jazz” that may well be the pan-sexiest number ever performed in a DCLO show.

The ensemble (which also includes Angie Asch, Haylee Cooper, Michelle Hernandez, Ashlyn Kindberg, Shay Louise, Michael Loupe, Kyle McAuley, Angeline Mirenda, Marina Munoz, Steven Murray, Eric A. Peterson, Tiffany Van Cott, and Sheri Vasquez) join voices to back up Tinnaro in “Life Is,” “The World Goes Round,” and “Tomorrow Belongs To Me.” (If only the latter didn’t carry its Nazi anthem baggage, adding creepy undertones to an otherwise fine performance.) The female ensemble join voices in “There Goes The Ball Game” and the men in “How Lucky Can You Get.”

In fact, the only downside to the addition of so many Kander & Ebb classics to the World Goes ‘Round mix is that “Arthur In The Afternoon,” “Class,” “The Money Song,” and “The Rink” have ended up on the cutting room floor.

Musical director Eddy Clement conducts a scaled-down orchestra which sounds absolutely sensational. This may also be Downey CLO’s best looking revue yet, thanks to Moode’s imaginative staging and a glittery set design (and two terrific side sets, one featuring framed posters of Kander & Ebb’s greatest hits and flops), lit with panache by lighting designer Jacqui Jones. Company members wear outfit after outfit and gown after gown thanks to costumer Elizabeth Bowen. At the performance reviewed, Jay Lee’s sound design went off almost entirely without a hitch (one very brief, minor mike glitch), though a few vocal performances could stand a bit more amplification. Mark Keller is technical director and Sally Casey Bell stage manager.

The World Goes ‘Round is but the latest diamond on the tiara of the one and only Moode, a true Southern California treasure, who deserves not only the respect and admiration of the City of Downey, she ought to be awarded a key to the city as well. (And you can tell Downey city officials I said so.) Moode’s salute to Kander & Ebb may not be The World Goes ‘Round as you’d normally see it, but it offers audiences two hit-packed acts of topnotch entertainment—and an edifying glimpse into the careers of two of Broadway’s brightest lights.

Downey Theatre, 8435 E. Firestone Blvd., Downey.

–Steven Stanley
February 15, 2013

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