By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
“The World Goes 'Round: the Songs of Kander & Ebb” is more than a musical for people who don't like musicals. Lots more.
For one thing, in this show directed by Kevin Johnson and produced by Arizona Onstage Productions, there is no story. There is no connecting dialogue. Which means the cast and audience can completely focus on the songs – all 25 of them.
Staged as a revue, each song becomes a self-contained little story complete with choreography, props, costumes and lighting. Making it all come together is a cast of five singer/actors, four of them from AOP's stupendous production last August of “Les Miserables.”
The operatically tinged voice of Erin Anderson wasn't in on that gig, but she joins the others here with equal talent and enthusiasm. They are Amy Erbe, Liz Cracchiolo-Samaniego, Tyler Wright and Jeremy Vega.
It is a remarkable amount of talent to be focused on the intimate stage in the upstairs Cabaret Space at the Temple of Music and Art. The lighting by Don Fox enhances a unified simplicity of costumes and set design, giving the singers and four-piece stage band plenty of room to work their magic.
Josh Lamoreaux, pianist and music director, has assembled a capable ensemble of: Michael Weiss, reeds, co-bassists Dylan DeRobertis and Kenneth Marr, Casey Hadland, drums.
The musicians occasionally drowned out the singers on opening night, but hopefully that technical problem has been corrected by now.
“The World Goes 'Round” as conceived by Susan Stroman, David Thompson and Scott Ellis had a successful off-Broadway run in 1991-92. It was a showcase for some of Kander & Ebb's lesser known songs from their lesser known shows such as “The Rink,” “Woman of the Year” and “Flora, the Red Menace.”
Well, they can't all turn out as well as K&E's “Cabaret” and “Chicago.” A couple of hits from those two classic shows are on the song list, as well.
But what we take away from this production in Tucson's own Cabaret Space is the heart-felt longing in several numbers that recall the same kind of big city loneliness we feel from the Edward Hopper painting “Nighthawks.”
There are some wryly funny songs such as “The Grass Is Always Greener” delivered with a wink by Erbe and Cracchiolo-Samaniego; and a sly tribute to grocery store baked goods in the aptly titled “Sara Lee,” sung by Vega and eventually involving the entire cast.
Anderson delivered my personal favorite selection, “Coloring Book,” from the 1965 TV special “My Name Is Barbra.” She also cranked up the show's emotional ending with the better-known “Maybe This Time” written for the movie version of “Cabaret.”
When is the last time you left a Tucson musical of any sort singing any of the songs? This time, you will. Guaranteed.
“The World Goes 'Round: the Songs of Kander & Ebb” continues through April 5 in the upstairs Cabaret Space at the downtown Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave., with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Note: curtain on March 28 (Saturday) is 6 p.m.
Tickets are $37.50, with discounts available. For details and reservations, arizonaonstage.org