Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
The World Goes 'Round
The Prince Music Theater has kicked off its new season with a light, breezy and very entertaining production of The World Goes 'Round, a revue of songs by one of Broadway's greatest composing teams, John Kander and Fred Ebb.
There's no plot to worry about here, just a series of songs from Kander and Ebb shows that were hits (like Chicago and Cabaret) and flops (like The Rink and 70, Girls, 70). But they all blend together very well, showing that Ebb's lyrics are clever and incisive and that Kander's melodies cover a wide range of styles, from the jaunty and joyous to the hauntingly beautiful.
Directed by Daniel Kutner, the Prince's production gives us the songs with very little embellishment. The show's success is due to those songs and to the five superb performers who sing them. Rashidra Scott lends her smoky alto to torch songs like "Maybe This Time" and "My Coloring Book"; Jaclyn Huberman shines on wistful, reflective ballads like "Isn't This Better" and "Colored Lights"; Ted Keegan shows off his gorgeous, powerful tenor on "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and "We Can Make It"; Jessica Wright brings a lovely, gentle touch to "A Quiet Thing"; and Adam Armstrong veers nicely from all-out comedy ("Sara Lee") to plaintive desperation ("Mr. Cellophane").
There's also a simple but elegant set (designed by Broadway vet Beowulf Boritt), and a peppy six-piece onstage band.
A few quibbles: since this show was first produced Off-Broadway in 1991, it ignores the shows that the team wrote from that point until the partnership ended with Ebb's death in 2004. The production staff has added one song from The Visitthe poignant "Love and Love Alone"but it seems odd to otherwise ignore one of the most productive decades in the Kander and Ebb oeuvre. There's also dull choreography and some odd costumes; Wright is saddled with an ugly lime-green housedress for much of the show. And, despite their beautiful voices, two of the performers are less than ideally suited for the material: Keegan sings his ballads with a look of overwrought pain, while Wright seems embarrassed by having to attempt suggestive dance moves on "All That Jazz" and "Arthur In the Afternoon." (The late Cathy Wydner gave an unforgettable, casually sexy performance in the same role in the Philadelphia Theatre Company's production of The World Goes 'Round back in 1993; Wright seems too restrained in comparison.)
But these are minor complaints about a show that you'll have a wonderful time at. The Prince has done a great job with this Kander and Ebb revue; now, how about doing one of the team's Broadway shows? Anyone else up for The Rink?
The World Goes 'Round runs through Sunday, October 12, 2008. Ticket prices range from $30 to $40, and may be purchased by calling UpStages at 215-569-9700, in person at 1412 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, or online at www.princemusictheater.org.
The World Goes 'Round