Review: The World Goes ‘Round

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Summer in Vancouver is always tough for theatre goers as we’re all expected to be outside enjoying our two weeks of summer.  Fortunately, there are groups like Another Musical Co-op that take up the challenge of a summer-time production and is now presenting The World Goes ‘Round at the Pacific Theatre through August 30th.

A revue show highlighting the songs from the John Kander and Fred Ebb song book, The World Goes ‘Round one runs through almost two hours of selections; from the big hits like Cabaret and Chicago through lesser known shows such as 70, Girls, 70 and The Rink and other miscellaneous songs such as the delicious (pun intended) Sara Lee and the excruciating (again, pun intended) Pain.

In fact, when putting this revue together the trio of Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman and David Thompson deliberately set off to “balance the standards … with other material perhaps not as well known”.

And they certainly achieved that balance with great results as this revue not only includes those nostalgic bits (like perhaps remembering the first time you saw Chicago on stage) but also serves up some pieces that only die-hard Kander and Ebb fans would know but still delighting those that do not.

The ensemble cast here consisting of Jeremy Crittenden, Sarah Gay, Timothy Gledhill, Alison MacDonald and Jennifer Neumann are well matched.  Each must take on songs individually but must also come together for some of the ensemble numbers.

Included in that ensemble roster is the very funny Coffee in a Cardboard Cup that most certainly was written specifically for a Vancouver audience given our penchant for that particular ubiquitous coffee shop.  And because Coffee in a Cardboard Cup appears so early on in the show, and the ensemble does such a great job with it, we are immediately sucked into the worlds being created through Kander and Ebb’s songs.

Other highlights during Act One included Sara Lee with its completely ridiculous ode to the fictional bakery maven and The Rink with the actors on roller, ice and inline skates in a fun chorus line ending to the act.

The real challenges for any revue type show are almost always about continuity and flow and this was very evident in Act One.  I should be clear that this continuity and flow has nothing to do with the skill of the actors or director but in the very nature of putting together a two hour show of such diverse origins.

But the continuity/flow issue changed very quickly for me in Act Two and I found myself not only enjoying the variety of songs but also saw a little more cohesiveness in theme and in linking the songs together.  And this linkage was most evident in the show-stopping trio of We Can Make It (from The Rink), Maybe Next Time (from Cabaret) and Isn’t This Better? (from Funny Lady).

Plus the addition of tap in Marry Me, the localized fun in The Grass is Always Greener and the clever sponsor commercial in Money, Money also helped a lot to make Act Two more engaging and accessible.  Of course, the non-standard rendition of Cabaret and ending the entire show with New York, New York didn’t hurt either.

Accompanying the five actors on stage are a very intimate band of piano, drums and clarinet.  The band does a great job of ensuring they do not overpower the actors in this small venue and as a  bonus, musical director and drummer Gordon Roberts takes a turn at Cellophane (arguably one of the best songs from Chicago).

I must admit to having one small disappointment though and it had to do with my initial excitement in seeing costumes on the walls on either side of the stage.  I fully expected the cast to use the various costumes during the show but sadly it turned out to be no more than just stage dressing.  How fun would it have been to see the cast change into the various characters before our very eyes?

With the large Kander and Ebb song book, the inclusion of some of their ‘classics’ and the addition of some of their lesser known pieces makes The World Goes ‘Round a nice summer treat to either escape the heat or, given the change in weather lately, even to escape the rain.

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