BWW Reviews: SONGS FOR A SUMMER'S NIGHT at New Rep
The World Goes 'Round
Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb; Conceived by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman, and David Thompson; Directed and Choreographed by Ilyse Robbins, Musical Direction by Todd C. Gordon; Erik D. Diaz, Scenic Design; Deidre McCabe Gerrard, Costume Design; Deb Sullivan, Lighting Design; Joe Stallone, Properties Design; Lisa Wondolowski, Production Stage Manager
Perfect for a warm summer night, a quintet of local favorites sizzles in New Repertory Theatre's production of The World Goes 'Round, the award-winning musical revue of Kander and Ebb. Leigh Barrett, Aimee Doherty, David Costa, De'Lon Grant, and Shannon Lee Jones combine their considerable talents to give voIce To twenty-nine of the beloved duo's songs and stroll down a memory lane lined with Broadway classics. From the opening title song through the "New York, New York" finale, the hits keep on coming from The Happy Time, The Rink, Chicago, and Cabaret, and that's just for starters.
John Kander (composer) and the late Fred Ebb (lyricist) began working together in 1962 and had their first hit with "My Coloring Book," recorded by Barbra Streisand, and collaborated on their first Broadway musical Flora the Red Menace in 1965, in which Liza Minnelli made her first appearance on the Great White Way. In 1991, choreographer Susan Stroman, director Scott Ellis, and librettist David Thompson conceived The World Goes Round to celebrate the contribution (so far) of Kander and Ebb to American musical theatre. With approximately a dozen stage shows, numerous film scores, and music written for television to choose from, the creative trio crafted a revue that focuses on the characters and stories in these wonderful songs.
Ilyse Robbins makes her New Rep directorial debut and also choreographs, with assistant choreographer Maurice E. Parent. One would expect a musical directed by a choreographer to contain interesting stage movement and artistic dancing, and Robbins succeeds in making the show visually dynamic. Costa (Dance Captain) proves himself to be a suave song and dance man, tripping the light fantastic fantastically in "Sara Lee," strutting his Fosse-esque stuff in three numbers from Chicago, and later coupling with Doherty after her graceful solo waltz as a woman considering a marriage proposal. Robbins finds a variety of clever ways to employ props and keep the ensemble in motion, notably in "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup," "Me and My Baby," and "Ring Them Bells."
Dance and movement aside, The World Goes Round is first and foremost about the collection of songs. Barrett is in fine voice and emotionally acts out a story arc from the wistful remembrances of "Colored Lights" to the jaded heartbreak of "My Coloring Book." Jones sings, dances, and mugs with Grant in "Arthur in the Afternoon." Barrett and Doherty are a riot doing their best low-life impressions in "Class," and "The Grass is Always Greener" gives Barrett and Jones another chance to show off their comedy chops. The men sing "I Don't Remember You" (Grant) and "Sometimes a Day Goes By" (Costa) back-to-back in a beautiful and moving arrangement. Each member of the cast displays their versatility with a mix of comic and dramatic selections, and these are but a few of the highlights.
Musical Director Todd C. Gordon on keyboard and his fellow musicians (Brian Grochowski on bass, Jim DeLorey on percussion, and Louis Toth on reeds) are seated upstage on the art deco set designed by Erik D. Diaz and blend in as a key component of the company. Diedre McCabe Gerrard designs mostly simple and elegant dresses for the three women and puts the men in suits, but tie-less for a semi-casual appearance. Deb Sullivan's lighting design helps set the mood, and Joe Stallone meets the challenge of providing diverse props, from baby carriages to a shopping cart full of Sara Lee products.
It is a delight to spend an evening in the theater that is pure pleasure. After all, it is summertime and the living should be easy. Thanks to New Repertory Theatre and Ilyse Robbins and company for getting it right.