A Delightful Merry-Go-Round of Song and Dance
By Geary Danihy
MTC Mainstage is celebrating the opening of its new theater in Norwalk with a production of “The World Goes ‘Round -- The Songs of Kander & Ebb,” a tuneful, collection of songs from the creators of such hits as “Chicago” and “Cabaret.” As directed by Kevin Connors, MTC’s executive artistic director, “The World Goes ‘Round” is an excellent choice to showcase MTC’s new digs, for it captures the spirit of the “old” MTC while highlighting the new possibilities that the larger quarters offer MTC, now in its 26th year
“The World...” is basically a revue with a faint attempt at a frame that all but disappears after the first 10 minutes of the show, but that really doesn’t matter. What does matter with a show like this is the cast, because the actors, basically without a book to work with, have to create the mood and context for the songs essentially in a vacuum. Yes, many of the songs will be familiar to theatergoers who have seen Kander and Ebb’s musicals, but in the musicals the songs are delivered by characters the actors have had a chance to develop – when Sally Bowles sings “Maybe This Time,” in “Cabaret,” the audience understands where the song is coming from. When Trisha Rapier sings the song in “The World...,” she does so without the benefit of all that has come before the number in the musical. In other words, it’s all on her. Fortunately, Rapier is more than up to the task -- the number is a heartbreaking plea for love, for something more than a one-night stand.
In fact, the entire cast is more than up to the task. Rapier, Kathy Callahan, Melissa Carlile-Price, Eric Scott Kincaid and Aaron Young sell song after song, shifting gears as necessary with verve, energy and aplomb.
The intimacy that MTC has been known for is still there, but the larger space has allowed for the show to be lit in a truly professional and effective manner by Michael Megliola, and now MTC can present full choreography, this time crafted by Jeri Kansas. However, as with all moves into new and larger quarters, it takes time to get used to the new space, to own it and know how to use it most effectively. Thus, there are certain line-of-sight problems and a question of just how far down-stage the actors should be blocked, but these will be corrected as the creative team becomes more comfortable with the new space. The only really disappointing part of the evening was the set designed by David Heuvelman. It was certainly functional, but there was little glitz or pizzazz. So much more could have been done to enhance the overall look and excitement of the show.
So where does the excitement come from? The actors. In number after number, they sell the songs, creating many high points. There’s the caffeine-frenzy of “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup” (you can see the caffeine take effect) and the wistful “Colored Lights.” Each of the extremely talented cast members has his or her moment to shine. There’s the aching pathos of the “Mr. Cellophane” number, ably captured by Kincaid. As mentioned above, Rapier, the belter of the quintet, nails “Maybe This Time,” and leggy Carlile-Price dazzles as the lead in “Ring Them Bells” -- and the duo does wonderful takes on “The Grass is Always Greener” and “Class.” And who can resist the delight Calahan evokes as she spends some time with “Arthur in the Afternoon’? Finally, there’s the soulful “Marry Me,” an achingly beautiful cri de coeur that Young makes you believe is truly coming from his heart.
The best is saved for last, for the show ends with three numbers performed by the entire cast: “The Money Song,” “Cabaret” and the theme from “New York, New York.” The energy is palpable, the talent more than obvious.
Anyone who loves musical theater and appreciates well-honed, exuberant performances will delight in “As the World Goes ‘Round.” You will come away humming a tune and perhaps dancing several steps before you reach your car. The evening is infectious, in the best sense of the word.
“The World Goes ‘Round” runs through Nov. 23. For tickets or more information call 203-454-3883 or go to www.musictheatreofct.com