By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker
Broadway Rose general manager/director Dan Murphy is a self-proclaimed lover of revues, as any look at past seasons will attest. As reviewers, we find that there are revues, and then there are revues. The weakest ones often offer up a flimsy wraparound story struggling to support a series of musical clichés. The best bring to audiences something old, something new, and a creative flair that makes it all quite wonderful.
The current production of The World Goes Round is a celebration of the works of John Kander and Fred Ebb (think Chicago, Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman and several iconic songs we didn’t even realize were taken from musicals). It is quite wonderful…
Both cast and band are beautifully suited to the demands of Kander and Ebb’s most powerful, best-known works interspersed with a less familiar body of quaintly romantic ballads and novelty songs. Jennifer Goldsmith’s wide vocal range allows her to open the show with a bang - she knocks “And The World Goes Round” out of the park, and her rendition of “My Coloring Book” explores every nuance of an already tender and visceral number. In any battle for “best in show” Goldsmith faces fierce competition from Joey Côté, whose rendition of “Mr. Cellophane” captures all of the wry pathos of Bert Williams’ “Nobody” – and the staging of the number (especially the lighting and the band’s oddly appropriate accompaniment) perfectly complements the song’s quirky and wistful tone.
The competition is just as strong in the novelty department. The entire cast sparkles (on roller skates, no less!) in “The Rink” – a number that also highlights the skill of choreographer Erin Shannon. Grace O’Malley’s amazing costume design helped to make second act opener “Ring Them Bells” a comic tour de force. Côté’s “Sara Lee” is lively, cute, and well-staged, but still possibly outmatched by Andrew W. Foster’s hilarious posturing, and Ecaterina Lynn’s dry delivery, of “Arthur in the Afternoon.” Foster proves that he’s got a great set of lungs under those pectoral muscles with his seductively dynamic interpretation of “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”
Among the songs that were new to us, the most memorable may be “Colored Lights” (from The Rink). Erin Charles’ poignantly restrained delivery, supported by imaginative lighting, makes this relatively unknown gem one of the show’s highlights.
The strength of the show’s vocal ensemble shines most brightly in “New York, New York” when the five cast members, at one point, are not only singing harmony, they are singing simultaneously in four different languages. Musical director Jeffrey Childs (who does double duty as the show’s pianist) has crafted the five already accomplished vocalists into something that is so much more than the sum of its parts!
If The World Goes Round is reflective of the kind of musical revue that Dan Murphy wants to bring to Broadway Rose’s New Stage, then all we can say is “bring ‘em on.” If you love the work of Kander and Ebb, see this show. If you, like us, are not familiar with the vast majority of their work, then it is even more imperative that you take this chance to be charmed by an unbelievable songwriting duo.
The World Goes Round runs at Broadway Rose’s New Stage, 12850 SW Grant Avenue, Tigard through March 1.