And The World Goes Round/conceived by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman and David Thompson/music by John Kander; lyrics by Fred Ebb/director: Gary Lee Reed/musical director: Joshua Eli Kranz/choreographer: Noel Britton/NoHo Arts Center, Second Stage/through March 10
And the World Goes Round by Kander & Ebb is a revue incorporating a compilation of their greatest hits and is often performed straight out with no frills or dramatic re-imaginings of any kind. Performers stand and sing center stage , and that's it. There have been two inventive productions within the last six months, one at the Actors co-op directed by Robert Marra and now this newest production at NoHo Arts directed by Gary Lee Reed, which is truly a labor of love from top to bottom.
With vibrant musical direction from virtuoso pianist Joshua Eli Kranz, superlative choreography from Noel Britton - who really takes risks on this tiny stage - and a dynamic cast of 5 very talented singers: Erica Hanrahan-Ball, Emily King Brown, Kristin Towers-Rowles, Isaac James and Ryan Ruge, World spins and spirals in fresh unexpected directions. The stage is a dark cabaret club (elaborate set design by Thomas S. Giamario), and pianist Kranz enters and looks about slowly before sitting at the piano stage right to play the title song. When he looks from one colored light to another, they flicker on and off. Drummer/percussionist Alex Stickels is stationed opposite, stage left. In the center there is a revolving black door through which the 5 singers make a splashy entrance with "Yes" followed by a delightfully staged "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup". My interpretation of the flickering lights is setting the scene for either memories of performances past, with each subsequent set-up recreated from the recesses of the pianist's mind...or in dream-like fashion, it's a first time creation of an eclectic mix of scenes and numbers as he wishes them to be performed. Either way it's a treasure chest of magical choices that excite and titillate.
Highlights include: Rowles' sensuous "Arthur in the Afternoon", Brown's gorgeous "My Coloring Book", Hanrahan-Ball's delicious "How Lucky Can You Get" from the film Funny Lady, Ruge's "Sara Lee" and wonderfully attention-grabbing "Mr. Cellophane" from Chicago and James' dynamite "Kiss of the Spider Woman". Hanrahan-Ball and Brown milk every split second for all it's worth in 2 duets "Class" from Chicago and "The Grass Is Always Greener" from Woman of the Year. Rowles is a knockout with Ruge singing and dancing "A Quiet Thing" and "When It All Comes True" from Flora the Red Menace. Full company triumphs include: "Money, Money", "Cabaret", "New York, New York", "Me and My Baby", "Pain" and "The Rink". I cannot praise Britton enough for her splendid moves and Reed for his inventiveness, making every set-up different and delightfully exciting. Daniel Mahler's costumes in mostly black and white are truly stunning. They, like the set by Giamario, fit the dark themes of Kander & Ebb shows to perfection.
At intermission and finale, one cannot help but marvel at the music these 2 giants composed. They were always ahead of their time and were unafraid of presenting totally new, daring material. This great revue of And the World Goes Round does Kander & Ebb proud. It's a winner! Don't miss it!