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BWW Reviews: Kander and Ebb's THE WORLD GOES 'ROUND Is a Night of Pure Fun at Broadway Rose

John Kander and Fred Ebb may be the last practitioners of the old-fashioned show tune, the kind that gets you tapping your toes, cocking your ear, and smiling throughout. Whether it's a heartrending ballad, a rollicking comedy song, or a dance number built on one of Kander's unforgettable vamps, their songs always land. They don't meander or get operatic. And even when those old-style songs are put in the service of a dark story, as in Cabaret, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman, or The Scottsboro Boys, they still play like gangbusters, their glitter used as ironic comment on the evil in the world.

The World Goes 'Round is a collection of Kander and Ebb's best songs, one after another, some shading into each other, others standing apart, presented by a cast of five and a band of five, every one of whom is determined to entertain you like you've never been entertained before. They're all up to the intense energy of Kander and Ebb's work, which demands that a performer have incredible stamina, impeccable timing, and several pairs of dancing shoes. Director Dan Murphy wisely doesn't try to add shtick to the numbers, except in the few that call for comedy, and they're played straight, with Ebb's lyrics clearly heard and unmistakable.

First of all, the band, led by Jeffrey Childs, is phenomenal. Five pieces fill the theater, playing nonstop, with the rhythms never faltering. (Broadway Rose's sound system, which has been iffy on past visits, was spot-on on this visit.) The scenery and costumes are simple and effective, but the lighting (designed by Gene Dent) is extra special, bringing out the performers at their best and helping set the mood for the individual songs.

Choreographer Erin Shannon doesn't have a lot of opportunities here, but when she gets the chance to shine, she gives the cast some fine steps, particularly in a long number in the second act. She and Murphy don't overdo the theatrics - they let the songs stand out.

The cast of five couldn't be better. Joey Cote shows a puckish sense of humor in "Sara Lee" and "Mr. Cellophane," but he also gets "Marry Me," one of the team's best ballads. Andrew W. Foster has some great dancing moves in "Arthur in the Afternoon" and shows off a fine voice in "Sometimes a Day Goes By" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman" (one of the few songs that really doesn't work outside of its original show, but not the performer's fault). Ecaterina Lynn does lovely work in her dance numbers, but she also gets the vocal on "Arthur in the Afternoon" and "A Quiet Thing," two very different songs, both standouts. Erin Charles is hilarious in "Class" and "Ring Them Bells," yet can tear your heart out in "Isn't This Better?"

If there's a first among equals, though, I have to give the award to Jennifer Goldsmith. Whether she's handling comic gems like "The Grass Is Always Greener," jazzy solos like "Only Love," or barroom ballads like "My Coloring Book" and "Maybe This Time," Goldsmith is always note perfect, and she looks so relaxed and comfortable on stage that you can't take your eyes off of her. When so many musical theatre performers try to wow you, Goldsmith just relaxes and knows you'll come to her, and she's right.

As an ensemble, though, the five are just right together, blending perfectly on group numbers like "There Goes the Ball Game," and "Money, Money." They do amazing five-part jazz harmony on "Cabaret," then sing "New York, New York" in several different languages before knocking that one out of the park as well.

In short, The World Goes 'Round is just right in almost every way. It never gets silly or campy, and even when the actors are on roller skates, it never loses its footing. Broadway Rose may be the Portland area's headquarters of jazz hands, and when they choose the right show, no one can do it better. Now if I could just get the vamp to "All That Jazz" out of my head...


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From This Author Patrick Brassell

Patrick Brassell is the author of five published novels and five produced plays. He has directed, produced, and designed sound for about fifty theater productions, (read more...)