Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
People who may be unfamiliar with the authors' names will recognize their work. Kander, born in 1927 and still working at age 96, wrote the music and Ebb (1928-2004) the lyrics for musicals including Cabaret, Chicago, and Kiss of the Spider Woman. The team isn't done yet: three of their works premiered on Broadway after Ebb's passing and another–a stage adaptation of the 1977 movie New York, New York, for which they wrote the songs–is preparing to open.
So, where to start? The big surprise is Olney newcomer Harris Milgrim, a tall and personable singing actor who appears to be able to do anything onstage. He joins Natascia Diaz for "Arthur in the Afternoon" as the title character, a cheerfully self-absorbed gym rat who seems to think of sex as just another kind of workout. He sings a love song to "Sara Lee," represented by Nova Y. Payton and Karen Vincent dressed in Mayenda Kulemeka's mouth-watering specialty costumes. He comes back in "Mr. Cellophane" as shy and self-effacing, and later plays out a ballet of loneliness and hope with Diaz.
Payton also demonstrates her versatility, from her confident belting on "And the World Goes 'Round" to her quietly devastating performance of "My Coloring Book." Diaz, sleek and confident, sizzles in "All That Jazz," while Vincent gives vivid performances of songs as varied as "Colored Lights" (introspective), "Ring Them Bells" (enthusiastic), and "How Lucky Can You Get" (shifting from high to low and back).
McAllister comes through as an emotional performer, explosively in "Kiss of the Spider Woman" but rueful and conflicted in "Go Back Home" and "She's a Woman." All five performers shine in Hemby's ensemble numbers, ranging from a caffeine-manic "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup" to the close harmonies of "There Goes the Ballgame," the broad humor of "What Kind of Man," and the chance to see the cast on roller skates in "The Rink."
Daniel Ettinger's scenic design places the singers in front of a decorative bandstand where the six musicians, conducted from the piano by Christopher Youstra, show their enthusiasm as they keep the tempos moving. Larry Boggs has designed costumes that are both sharp looking and flexible enough to allow unfettered movement.
The production looks splendid with Aja M. Jackson's atmospheric lighting, Matt Rowe's sound design, and Patrick W. Lord's clever use of projections–photos, production signage, and video clips of notable performers sharing their experiences working with Kander and Ebb.
Olney is co-producing this production with ArtsCentric and Everyman Theatre, two companies based in Baltimore.
The World Goes 'Round runs through May 21, 2023, at the Olney Theatre Center, Mainstage, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney MD. For tickets and information, please call 301-924-3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org.
A co-production with ArtsCentric and Everyman Theatre