Sunday, May 19, 2019

The World Goes 'Round - Canberra Rep

Review by John Lombard

The program for The World Goes 'Round has a safety alert: “This production contains many musical classics to hum along with.”

This compilation of songs from musicals by composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb justifies the audience alert. Kander and Ebb have a gift for the catchy tune, and if you see this show you risk these songs spinning in your head for days - this is exactly what happened to me.

Kander and Ebb are best-known for Chicago and Cabaret, and well-known songs from these musicals are represented. But the bulk of the show delves into forgotten classics, including many of the pair's collaborations with Liza Minnelli. The songs are stirring, plucky, and sometimes frothy, and would have been nostalgic even when they debuted in the 70s and 80s.

The story is sparse. With a struggling bar for sale, the employees fill the day by performing lively musical skits. The light touch means we are spared the obnoxious story padding of a show like We Will Rock You, but with no engine driving the show on, it feels like killing time while waiting for the world to turn. The scenario is however a great fit with the wistful but optimistic flavour of many of the songs.

As always, director Jarrad West proves he is the master of the democratic ensemble, and in this collaborative atmosphere everyone finds a moment to shine. Louiza Blomfield uses her powerful voice to give soulful renditions of songs such as ‘Maybe This Time’ from Cabaret. Both Isaac Gordon and Joel Hutchings delight with wonderful physical comedy, with the highlight an acrobatic and hilarious roller skate duet set to 'The Rink'. Julia Walker is a gentler presence, but with a sweetness that grounds the show.

The bar set by Chris Baldock is authentic and detailed, with nooks like the cloak room providing opportunity for horseplay, while prominent movie posters added to the nostalgia factor, as well as gently hinting that this bar struggled because it was left behind by trends.

In the opening night performance, due to illness cast member Sammy Marceddo was replaced by director Jarrad West and choreographer Caitlin Schlig. Both West and Schlig relished the impromptu parts, and the substitution was so seamless that it was invisible.

Perhaps because of this last minute revision of the cast, some harmonies were off. 'Cabaret' near the end of the show was wildly discordant, but this was an aberration in a night of satisfying musical performances.

The World Goes 'Round is a concert celebration of Kander and Ebb, a dip into a treasure chest that discovers lost gems.