Sunday, September 21, 2003

And The World Goes Round (Actors' Summit)

Actors' Summit presents pleasureable, but unpolished review

What do ‘THE HAPPY TIME,’ ‘ZORBA,’ ’‘CHICAGO,’ ‘THE RINK,’ ‘KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN,’ and ‘CABARET’ all have in common? Didn’t know the answer? Well, that’s not surprising. They are all musicals written by the team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, the best known musical writing team that you’ve probably never heard of. John Kander and Fred Ebb not only are one of the greatest songwriting teams on Broadway, but they presently are the longest-running music-and-lyrics partnership in Broadway musical history. Unfortunately, their names do not trip off the tongue like Rogers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, and Lerner and Loewe.

Their works have been blended together into the musical review, ‘AND THE WORLD GOES ROUND,’ now on stage at Actors’ Summit. This is a difficult review to get right. Kander and Ebb write complicated music. Many of their songs don’t do well out of their original plot-driven context and don’t seemlessly fit into the review context. Often their songs are long and strain the musical abilities of the singers. And their songs often require gimmickry, such as singing, dancing and acting while on roller skates, the hallmark of their ‘THE RINK.’

Actors Summit, the professional theatre located in Hudson, has put together an acceptable if unpolished production. Most of the cast just isn’t strong enough to carry the vocal requirements of the songs. Singers need full-ranges to sing the likes of “Colored Lights,”“Maybe This Time,” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” There is a vocal and physical sizzle that needs to be present in “All that Jazz.” “Marry Me” needs a special appealing approach. Unfortunately, these elements weren’t present. There was a need for masterful vocal blendings for ensemble numbers. Musical Director Michelle Makhlouf needed to spend more time working on vocal sounds and timing.

On the other hand, some things worked well. The songs “Coffee In A cardboard Cup,” and “The Grass is Always Greener” were delightful. Mary Jo Alexander’s set is beautiful.

Sasha Thackaberry, the show’s choreographer, wisely used mostly cross-over steps and wandering, with a limited kick-line thrown in. The attempts for more complicated and stylized movements were thwarted by the limited dancing abilities of the cast. The highlight of the movements was a rollerskating sequence from “The Rink.”

Director Neil Thackaberry has incorporated some clever staging gimmicks into the production. He also has added many set and props changes which slow down the flow of the show.

Tricia Bestic displayed a nice Liza Minelli-style voice and mannerisms. Her “And the World Goes Round” was very well done, as was “Isn’t this Better?.” Dana Hart won the audience with his rendition of “Mr. Cellophane” which was properly pathetic and endearing. Thomas R. Cummings and the audience had a ball chomping on “Sara Lee.”

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: If you attend ‘AND THE WORLD GOES ROUND’ at Actors’ Summit expecting a polished, well-sung, well-danced review, you’ll be disappointed. If you go to just listen to some of the best music that has come from Broadway, you will have a pleasant time.