Something magical happens when you get a cast of Broadway veterans together to sing; something even more magical happens when some of the cast are also DMV all-stars.
Olney Theatre’s production of The World Goes ‘Round – The Music of Kander & Ebb is not a musical but more of an anthology of highlights from the songwriting pair. What director Kevin McAllister put together with his vision for this show has no storyline, but rather short glimpses of musical journeys — with one song on its own or several related songs performed together, giving the audience a well-rounded tour through songs that create places to linger in, savor, and enjoy.
Scenic designer Daniel Ettinger and lighting designer Aja M. Jackson created an effective environment where set and lighting were kept somewhat to a minimum; the strings of lights that sparkle at select moments are reminiscent of shows like Chicago or Cabaret. The use of the lively orchestra’s onstage platform added dramatic effect as it moved upstage and down at key moments. Additionally, costume designer Larry Boggs created simple outfits that hinted at the character of specific songs but allowed the actors to create individualized stage presences.
Choreographer Shalyce Hemby surprised me. I thought I was going to see a “revue,” with maybe a little hint of some choreography here and there. What I (and the audience) got was meaningful, fresh, and funny choreography that fit perfectly with each number, performed brilliantly by the cast. And, let’s face it, who doesn’t like those 1970s-style roller skates?
While I have seen all of these performers in various productions around the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area, it was really exciting to see this terrific group of five and their chemistry together. Director Kevin McAllister is a stunning vocalist in his own right, and he delivers fully with “I Don’t Remember You” from The Happy Time and “She’s a Woman” from Kiss of the Spider Woman. Natascia Diaz is believable in every song she sings, and her dancing is simply stellar. Nova Payton is always a vocal force to be reckoned with. One of the highlights was her rendition of “My Coloring Book,” evoking passion and tenderness with, as always, remarkable control.
Harris Milgrim makes his Olney debut and he is all the things: cute, charming, funny, great voice, great dancer. You can’t help but notice him in “Mister Cellophane” from Chicago. Karen Vincent also makes her debut with Olney. “Isn’t This Better” is a lesser-recognized song from Funny Lady, but Vincent sings it the best I’ve ever heard.
The second-to-last number was the show stopper — tight harmonies in a unique version of “Cabaret.” One could argue that John Kander and Fred Ebb have crafted some of musical theater’s most poignant, witty, and romantic songs for Broadway — and this show would serve as certain proof.
Running Time: Two hours and 10 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
The World Goes ‘Round – The Songs of Kander & Ebb plays through May 21, 2023, in the Roberts Mainstage at Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD. Tickets ($42–$90) are available online or through the box office at 301-924-3400, open from 12 pm – 6 pm Wednesdays through Saturdays. Discounts are available for groups, seniors, military, and students.
The program for The World Goes ‘Round is online here.
COVID Safety: Masks are recommended but not required. Olney Theatre Center’s current health and safety policies are here.