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FST's 'The World Goes 'Round' spins the wheel of love and loss

Kander and Ebb’s musical merry-go-round is a dizzying ride.

"The World Goes 'Round," playing at FST's Gompertz Theatre through June 30, is a musical revue featuring the hits of Kander and Ebb.
"The World Goes 'Round," playing at FST's Gompertz Theatre through June 30, is a musical revue featuring the hits of Kander and Ebb.
Image courtesy of John Jones
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The earth rotates. In other news, Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman and David Thompson’s “The World Goes 'Round” is now on stage at Florida Studio Theatre. 

This hit revue showcases 18 tunes by composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb. The songs’ origins include Broadway blockbusters like “Cabaret” and “Chicago” and forgotten gems like “Rink” and “Flora the Red Menace.” 

Origin aside, the songs spin their characters on a wheel of heartbreak and happiness. Kander and Ebb’s musical merry-go-round is a dizzying ride.

Dayna Jarae Dantzler, Dion Simmons Grier, Crystal Kellogg, Lani Corson and Zak Edwards are the all-too-human performers holding on for dear life. Each gets their moment in the spotlight. That’s a question of storytelling, not directorial evenhandedness.

“The World Goes 'Round” is a revue, not a musical with an overarching story. While the show has no tale to tell, the songs do — along with strong characters. (Horny housewives, coffee addicts and gangland molls, to name a few.) Kander and Ebb’s songs are first-person stories — from Somebody’s point-of-view. With one exception …

“Mr. Cellophane” (Edwards) is a Nobody’s narrative. In this comic performance, the singer doesn’t even get the spotlight. He’s constantly chasing it around on stage. Edwards’ character calls himself “Mr. Cellophane” because he feels transparent. The rest of humanity sees right through him. (The spotlight gag is funny. But it’s clearly not funny for him.) 

“Colored Lights” (Kellogg) is one woman’s poignant attempt to recapture childhood magic. She’s a jaded adult, looking back on the days when a carnival’s colored lights gave her joy. "My Coloring Book" (Dantzler) is the sizzling torch song of a jilted woman. (Color her blue, empty and lonely.) 

Just a few sad stories out of many. But this revue provides a medicine for melancholy. Kander and Ebb’s main prescription? “Get out of the house!”

“Cabaret” says it best: “There’s no use sitting alone in your room.” (Corson illustrates this point with a kicky, kinetic, high-energy dance number.) “Ring Them Bells” (Kellogg) brings this advice home with the tale of a thirtysomething woman who lives with her parents. 

Her character ultimately breaks free, travels the world and rings the bells of romantic adventure. After all that, she returns home and finds true love in the boy next door just down the hall. But it took a globe-trotting odyssey to find him.

 “Arthur in the Afternoon” (Corson and Grier) offers a low-mileage alternative. A housewife gets out of her room — and makes a daily tryst part of her afternoon commute.

The Kander and Ebb tribute "The World Goes 'Round" plays through June 30 at FST's Gompertz Theatre.
Image courtesy of John Jones

These performers all shine in the revue’s solo performances. They’re equally incandescent in ensemble numbers like “New York, New York” and the titular “The World Goes 'Round.” 

“Rink” has the highest level of difficulty. (Singing and dancing is hard enough — but on roller skates?) The show’s choreography is inventive. It’s aerobic. These actors aren't just good — they’re in good shape. Because they have to be.

This revue’s packed with moving parts. Director and choreographer Ben Liebert keeps all the plates spinning in the air without any breakage. And speaking of spin, his choreography often revolves around circular movement. Liebert’s dance routines are never routine. But they don’t distract from each song’s story and the characters’ inner lives. As a director, that’s always his main focus.

Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay’s set has the look of a sleek New York City nightclub, with just a slice of the starry night sky peeping through. Harry Nadal’s costumes have a daydream’s quick-change vibe. On one song, everyone’s sporting tutus. Then they’re all doing their thing in tuxedoes. These strange changes evoke the characters’ stream-of-consciousness, not literal reality. That’s perfect for this show. Now let's talk music.

Because that’s what makes this show go ‘round.

This show’s basically a delivery system for Kander and Ebb’s greatest hits. As good as it may be, everything else is secondary. 

Despite rumors to the contrary, “The World Goes 'Round” is a concert, not a musical. A general’s only as good as his army. And a concert’s only as good as the band. Now let’s give credit where it’s due …

A white-hot, four-piece band goes straight to the heart on the revue’s songs. These include: Music director Josh Walker making the piano sing; too-cool Kroy Presley strumming bass; the insanely versatile Fernando Cruz on every reed instrument known to man; and Aaron Nix hitting the drums in a slow groove — or faster-than-the-eye-can-see, as the song requires.

If you don’t know Kander and Ebb from Click and Clack, you’ll still have a blast here.

It’s the band, man.

The band.



Marty Fugate

Marty Fugate is a writer, cartoonist and voiceover actor whose passions include art, architecture, performance, film, literature, politics and technology. As a freelance writer, he contributes to a variety of area publications, including the Observer, Sarasota Magazine and The Herald Tribune. His fiction includes sketch comedy, short stories and screenplays. “Cosmic Debris,” his latest anthology of short stories, is available on Amazon.

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