Here’s one Depot Theatre devotee and Kander and Ebb admirer’s tackle The World Goes ‘Round — a cornucopia of songs by the artistic staff that gave us the mega-hit Broadway classics Cabaret and Chicago.
One among my earliest experiences with the music of Kander and Ebb involved the primary time I auditioned for a manufacturing by my high school Drama Membership, means again in tenth grade. My family and I had seen the film version of Cabaret starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles and directed by the one-and-only Bob Fosse, and my mother and father subsequently purchased the eight-track tape of the movie’s score (when you have been born any time after 1980, go ask Grandma what an eight-track was!). It was performed lots in our house, so I was fairly conversant in the songs within the movie and my favorite was “Maybe This Time” — a rueful, “am-down-and-out-but-will-rise-again” anthem that, as belted out by Ms. Minnelli, is among the musical excessive points in a movie full of them.
Figuring out very little about audition preparation, not to mention singing Broadway tunes, I decided to do “Maybe This Time” for my audition music. We have been referred to as in in pairs, and my associate was Alison Lazerwitz, a gifted junior with a lovely voice who had been one of many standout performers within the Drama Membership’s most up-to-date musical revue. She went first and guess what music she sang? None aside from “Maybe This Time,” which she knocked out of the proverbial park. Caught off-guard by this seeming coincidence, I introduced to the drama instructor and his co-director, with evident embarrassment, that I had ready the same track and proceeded to croak it.
For sure, I did not get the half.
On reflection, I understand now that I had no one in my life then to inform me it was a nasty selection — that “Maybe This Time” was a quote-unquote “girl’s” track or, extra critically, that it wasn’t in my range. However as Edith Piaf would say — in translation — I’ve no regrets. “Maybe This Time” is a powerhouse number that still provides me chills each time I hear it, and I did the perfect I might with it at the time.
Apart from, what I do know now, which the Harmless-I-Was had no inkling of then, is that the work of Kander and Ebb speaks to the androgynous in all of us — and in the present day, in 2019, that’s an particularly good factor.
Forgive my opening with such a private apart, but this flood of reveries stems from the inaugural production of the Depot Theatre’s 41st skilled summer-stock season — The World Goes ‘Spherical: The Songs of Kander & Ebb — which runs at the historic practice station theatre here in lovely, downtown Westport, New York by way of Sunday, July 14.
In the event you love the work of composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, as I do, you actually need to see this show. In case you’re not so acquainted with their work, this manufacturing of The World Goes ‘Spherical presents an exquisite alternative to experience a bevy of songs — a few of them obscure, lots of them among the greatest tunes ever written for the Nice White Method — assured to entertain, amuse and touch your coronary heart.
From Obscure Works to Masterpieces
Earlier than I proceed additional, a critic’s disclaimer: I usually want straight plays to musicals and I virtually all the time want so-called “book” musicals — i.e., with ample dialogue between songs in addition to a plot — to revues. Then again, I am keenly conscious of the tough economics involved in producing skilled theater nowadays and the attraction — not solely to theater corporations but in addition many present theatergoers — of extra easily produced, small-cast exhibits that elevate musical elements, especially when delivered by well-trained voices, over the spoken phrase.
That stated, The World Goes ‘Round is one of the better revues I’ve seen and heard. For one, pretty much all the songs in it — apart from those composed for the films Funny Woman and New York, New York — have been written expressly for Broadway or, within the case of Liza with a Z, a Broadway-inspired TV particular. This isn’t a type of numerous revues that take a bunch of pop songs from the 1950s or 60s and try to adapt them to the stage so as to attraction to the nostalgia of up to date theater’s all-too-often whitehaired audiences. The songs in World have been written for musical theater they usually actually work onstage.
The other thing I actually like about this show as conceived is the best way its conceivers — Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman and David Thompson — have structured the fabric. In distinction with all too most of the aforementioned pop-oriented revues, where the presentation of material seems arbitrary, here I detected a acutely aware throughline by which the songs in Act I converse to more youthful, optimistic themes introduced by characters just starting out on the journey of life — a minimum of until we get to the climactic Act I showstoppers from Chicago; while these in Act II converse more to the “sadder but wiser” women and boys, men and women, who have gone a couple of rounds with the vagaries of later maturity and been knocked down, if not out, various occasions.
This recurrent theme in most of the songs of Kander and Ebb is not any better illustrated than in the title music of their single best-known work, Cabaret — notably by the tragic tale of Elsie from Chelsea, who ends up as “the happiest corpse” the track’s narrator had ever seen. What good is sitting alone in your room, certainly!
One further neat thing concerning the materials is the massive variety of songs that have been new to this seasoned Kander and Ebb fan. The World Goes ‘Round dutifully plumbs the depths as well as breadth of its subjects’ oeuvre, drawing from such lesser-known works as The Act and Flora, the Pink Menace, two different automobiles for Liza Minnelli — arguably, probably the most iconic performer ever of Kander and Ebb songs; The Rink, which originally starred the fabulous Chita Rivera, one other favorite of Okay&E’s, along with Ms. Minnelli; The Glad Time; and — speak about obscure! — 70, Women, 70. There are additionally songs from the musical versions of such nice films because the Tracy-Hepburn basic Lady of the Yr; the Oscar-winning Kiss of the Spider Lady; and, considered one of my all-time favorite overseas movies, Zorba the Greek.
Nevertheless, it’s Cabaret, Chicago, and the movie rating for New York, New York that Kander & Ebb will possible greatest be remembered for and, not surprisingly The World Turns ‘Round (its title track comes from New York, New York) opens and closes with, and/or builds to in every act, songs from at the very least a type of three masterpieces.
Masterful Duets and Mild-hearted Group Gems
The Depot Theatre’s production is directed and choreographed by Kenney M. Green, making his auspicious debut as the corporate’s Producing Inventive Director, though he’s no stranger to Depot audiences given the a number of previous turns he’s taken there each onstage and off. Adam Michael Tilford is the present’s Music Director and onstage accompanist — with stage presence to spare. The practical, but charming set — with diaphanous curtains centerstage, a cut-out metropolis skyline upstage, and no shortage of lights — is by the versatile Bonnie B. Brewer. Margaret Swick’s “no-distractions” lighting design gets the job finished, and the costumes, as coordinated by triple-threat Mr. Green, are elegant and different, building largely off of a basic primary black.
The youthful forged of 5 is particularly energetic in multiple duets and larger group numbers. They cover lots of floor — almost 30 totally different songs in just over two hours of efficiency time—and it have to be exhausting. Listed here are just some of the highlights from this viewer’s perspective:
• A comically attractive song-and-dance duet between Lauren Gemelli — a pure to play Adelaide in Guys and Dolls sometime — and a lithe Dan Bob Higgins with “Arthur in the Afternoon” from The Act;
• Two masterful duets by Megan Koumis and Zoie Morris, as a pair of inebriated barflies in “Class” from Chicago and distant admirers, considered one of whom packs a wallop of a punchline in “The Grass Is Always Greener” from Lady of the Yr — arguably the two most Sondheim-like numbers in an evening of songs by a composer-lyricist group that sometimes hews rather a lot closer to the Jerry-Herman-end of the Broadway musical spectrum;
• Michael Indeglio’s show-stopping rendition of that may’t-miss showstopper from Chicago, “Mr. Cellophane” — in all probability my personal favorite solo number of the evening;
• Mr. Higgins’s bravura supply of the haunting title track from Kiss of the Spider Lady — the darkest male Broadway aria this aspect of Phantom of the Opera; and
• The most light-hearted group gem of the manufacturing, “Ring Them Bells” from Liza with a Z, by which Ms. Koumis effervescently channels a still-very-much-with-us Liza with an “M”—that’s, for “Minnelli.”
Excessive points apart, no assessment is complete without a minimum of a couple of minor quibbles. I attended the Friday night time preview efficiency, which was prefaced by Government Director Kim Rielly’s intro that cautioned the discount-ticketed viewers of the potential for technical glitches. And there were a couple of. Forged members at occasions appeared to be not sure of the height and positioning of the curtains, presumably a problem a extra attentive stage manager can forestall. An errant microphone, which can have barely hampered one of many performers in Act I, fortunately was corrected by Act II, during which that very same performer — perhaps not coincidentally — contended for standout of the act. In fact, slip-ups can occur in even probably the most polished productions and they are a part of the great thing about stay theater: no two performances are ever precisely the identical and only the rarest of them are really good.
When it comes to directorial decisions, I found it a bit distracting that the remainder of the spot-on music ensemble — percussionist Jane Boxall, bassist Finn Gardner Puschak, and woodwinds player Maria Vincelette — have been hidden from the audience, notably provided that pianist and conductor Mr. Tilford (all the time enjoyable to observe) was so conspicuous in directing them.
But again, these are the minutest of quibbles relating to a preview efficiency that the good majority of viewers members in attendance clearly loved.
And sure, my favourite Kander and Ebb tune, “Maybe This Time,” is featured within the show and, as delivered soulfully by Ms. Morris, gave me chills as soon as once more. However no, I did not sing alongside.
Perhaps subsequent time.
For tickets and more information about the Depot Theatre, visit www.depottheatre.org.
Fred Balzac’s connection with The Depot Theatre goes back 20 years when he and his wife, Kathleen Recchia, a current member of the theater’s board of trustees, took their then-four-year-old son, Samuel, to his first professional theater production, The Pajama Recreation, which helped inspire Sam’s current career as an actor and composer-lyricist. Fred, Kathy, and Sam stay avid members of The Depot’s extended family. Balzac has written extensively on theater and other cultural subjects for a number of publications in the North Country area, and he has been the co-recipient of statewide New York Press Association awards for Greatest Arts Coverage. The writer of several plays, he has seen his work produced in New York Metropolis each Off-Off-Broadway and at Columbia College, where Fred earned a B.A. in English based mostly partially on a senior thesis analyzing the “Hidden Roots” of Sam Shepard’s play Buried Baby.
Photograph: L-R: Megan Koumis, Dan Bob Higgins, Lauren Gemelli, Michael Indeglio, Zoie Morris sing in the course of the opening act of The World Goes ‘Spherical on the Depot Theatre in Westport.