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BWW Reviews: Robert Marra Puts Riveting Spin on WORLD GOES 'ROUND at Actors Co-Op

The World Goes 'Round/music by John Kander/lyrics by Fred Ebb/originally conceived by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman & David Thompson/re-envisioned by Robert Marra/Actors Co-Op at Crossley Theatre, Hollywood/directed & choreographed by Robert Marra/through October 14

Kander and Ebb were way ahead of their time. Their Chicago which premiered on Broadway in the late 70s was a truly brilliant creation and won no awards until its 90s revival. Their idea of humanity is to find the good in the bad, and to make a joyous celebration of it all. For some, it's a bitter pill to swallow; for most, it's life as it is. Their little revue The World Goes 'Round, culling the best songs from all of their shows, is currently receiving a first-class production on a small stage, with a new concept and characters created by director Robert Marra. Marra meticulously puts the dynamically beautiful music of Kander and Ebb into a 2012 New York coffee shop scenario with a bevy of needy characters. What results is a startlingly believable and enjoyable experience not to be missed on the Crossley stage of Actos Co-Op through October 14.

"Coffee in a Cardboard Cup" could not be served better than in the Coffee Tea Harmony shop, whose daily hang-out customers include a homeless lady (Gina D'Acciaro), a socialite (Carrie Madsen), a nerdy business man (Michael D'Elia), a housewife who's having an affair (Selah Victor), and an aging widower (Robert W. Laur). Then there's the coffee shop server (Kristen Heitman) and her boyfriend (Jeremiah Lowder), who wants her hand in marriage. The plot of Marra's little play, which is completely sung, sans dialogue, is moved forward by the emotional force of each song, which he has perfectly mated to each specific character in terms of how it affects their current state of mind. The seemingly inconsequential D'Elia, for example, sings "Mr. Cellophane"; the rich but lonely Madsen "All That Jazz", as she fantasizes a seduction of D'Elia; Victor, as she prepares for her tryst "Arthur in the Afternoon"; and D' Acciaro "Money, Money" as she grabs a bill someone has dropped on the sidewalk. It's song/character in a fast progression that builds and builds to more than one happy conclusion, in which everybody plays and everybody wins, as "The World Goes 'Round" informs us.

This is exceptional work from Marra for his concept, stellar direction and choreography, so alive in such a small space, and from the entire cast. I will not single out anyone in particular, as they all contribute so much to the continuity and emotional impact of the piece. Terrific ensemble, one and all! Bravo! Congratulations as well to Andy Hammer for his realistic, recognizable replica of a coffee shop, to Vicki Conrad for her appropriate costumes and to Michael Brill's expert musical direction.

This is an outstandingly fresh look at the old reliable The World Goes 'Round that will keep you engrossed from start to finish. You gotta love Kander and Ebb for their bold, one-of-a-kind music and now Robert Marra whose artistic vision is surely a match for their art.

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