Theater Review: THE WORLD GOES ‘ROUND (Marriott Theatre)

by Dan Zeff on September 23, 2021

in Theater-Chicago

DON’T STOP THIS WORLD

The Marriott Theater is reopening for business with a revival of “The World Goes ‘Round,” a review (originally titled “And the World Goes ‘Round”) that features songs by the Broadway music and lyrics team of John Kander and Fred Ebb. Patrons expecting a predictable “and then they wrote” compilation of greatest hits will rejoice in the Marriott’s exhilarating and often stirring production that approaches the material with continual creativity and artistry.

Kander and Ebb were a dominant Broadway musical duo responsible for “Cabaret” and “Chicago,” two of the iconic megahits of the 20th century. Along with some film work, they also composed about 10 other musicals, most of them never reaching hit status but still notable for first rate numbers embedded in the scores. Their revue was a hit off Broadway in 1991 and 1992, serving up more than 30 numbers. The Marriott revival omits a handful of songs from the original production but retains some of the team’s best in thisv90-minute act that never lags in interest while running the mood changes from broad comedy to the wistful, the rueful, the painful, the defiant, and the charming.

The show is performed by three females and two males, all possessed of show-stopping voices, major acting skills, and in a few cases, superior dancing talents. The setting, according to the playbill, is the backstage of an abandoned theater. Presumably the set symbolizes the theater coming out of its pandemic doldrums to rekindle the spark of live theater. But the show has no spoken dialogue or ongoing narrative as it provides an unbroken musical flow through a superior blends of solos, duets, trios, quartets, and full ensemble.

The production’s major triumph is the terrific matchup between Ebb’s literate and frequently powerful lyrics and nail-the-audience-to-their-seats singing from Allison E. Blackwell, Joseph Anthony Byrd, Kevin Early, Meghan Murphy, and Amanda Rose.

The five share equally in the glories of the presentation, though Blackwell and Murphy can be considered first among equals because they have the preponderance of dramatic numbers that soar on their let-em-rip vocal delivery. Blackwell gets the evening off to an ovation-earning start with her passionate “And the world goes round” from “New York, New York.” Murphy had opening night audience roaring over her take –no-prisoners delivery of “Ring Them Bells,” written for a Liza Minnelli concert. The two also combined on a fiercely dramatic “The Grass Is Always Greener” from “Woman of the Year.” But Early had his spotlight moment with an operatic “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and Byrd did a wry version of “Mister Cellophane” from “Chicago.”

There is a great sense of discovery in this show. Many of the selections will be unfamiliar to all but the most dedicated Broadway musical zealots. Much of the audience will be hearing the bulk of the score for the first time, adding a freshness to the audience’s listening experience, burnished by Ebb’s genius for creating engrossing stand-alone mini dramas that will engage the audience’s attention even without any context from the full musical.

The ensemble is served flawlessly by the directing and choreography of Marcia Milgrom Dodge. Her imaginative directing keeps the production flowing from emotion to emotion with the surest touch and while this isn’t a dancing show, Dodge’s choreography embellishes the staging with effective grace notes of movement, and the extended dance number “Shoes Dance” performed by Rose and Byrd shows what Dodge could do with a more dance-oriented vehicle. Christopher Rhoton’s set is minimalist but effective, yielding the more vivid visual effects to Sully Ratke (costumes) and Jesse Klug (lighting design). Good work also by Michael Daley (sound) and Miguel A. Armstrong (wigs). Patti Garwood did her usual first rate job conducting the rocking pit band.

The World Goes ‘Round
The Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr. in Lincolnshire
Wed at 1 & 8; Thurs & Fri at 8; Sat at 4:30 & 8; Sun at 1 & 5; select Thursdays at 1
ends on November 7, 2021
for tickets, call 847.634.0200 or visit Ticketmaster
for more info, visit Marriott

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

Note: Face masks and proof of COVID-19 vaccination or appropriate negative test are required.

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