A really fabulous and unexpectedly absorbing evening awaits those who venture to The Studio Theatre at St James this week to see The World Goes Around – A classy, stylish and incredibly well sung show celebrating the Songs of Kander and Ebb, best known to most people for Cabaret, Chicago, Liza Minelli (especially because of Cabaret) Chita Rivera and the iconic song New York, New York composed for Martin Scorsese’s film of the same name. Most people, especially in the UK, are unfamiliar with the wealth of wonderful songs with clever, poignant and passionate lyrics from lesser known shows (admittedly many of them short-lived Broadway runs) such as 70, Girls, 70, Woman of the Year, The Rink, The Happy Time, Flora the Red Menace, The Act and The Kiss Of The Spiderwoman. The Scottsboro Boys. Steel Pier, Curtains, and Fosse came after 1991 so are not included.
The World Goes Round was conceived as an Off-Broadway revue in 1991 by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman, and David Thompson in tribute to the then 30 year career of the duo.
Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb were both born in the late 1920s, and in 1991 had not had a hit on Broadway since the early 1980s. The World Goes Round became a hit and ran longer than many of their previous shows, playing 408 performances.
This production from Neil Eckersley (producer of the acclaimed Notes From New York series and Idina Menzel’s award-winning UK tour) at St James is a thoroughly deserved revival of last July’s short run at The Pheasantry. As smoothly presented and performed as it is possible to be with so much attention to style and detail, everything flows seamlessly and beautifully from the very first note played by the first class fabulous band led by Kris Rawlinson at the piano. The five singers are superb, led by Debbie Kurup (Velma in Chicago and Nikki Moran in The Bodyguard) and Oliver Tompsett (Fiyero in Wicked and Galileo in We Will Rock You). Joining them are Steffan Lloyd-Evans, Alexandra Da Silva and Sally Samad. They work together flawlessly with perfectly balanced and blended complex harmonies, well-judged choreography and gestures, and great chemistry. Even the way they moved the mic stands was directed and stylish done! The band also add so much with Nick Anderson on Drums and some wonderful Bass playing from Rhys Lovell and Rhiannon Jeffreys playing numerous reed instruments beautifully.
Debbie Kurup starts the show with a powerful rendition of the title song that sets the bar for the rest of the evening ~ she is a very special artist indeed and shimmers in All That Jazz, Only Love and a spine tingling Maybe This Time. But all five artists shine and have their moment in a rich tapestry of solos that could have been written personally for each one of them: Oliver Thompsett owns I Don’t Remember You, We Can Make It and his Kiss of the Spider Woman is tremendous. Sally Samad’s Arthur is enchanting, and Steffan Lloyd-Evans has a wonderful ease of performance in Sometimes A Day Goes By, Marry Me and a beautifully judged Mr Cellophane and Alexandra Da Silva’s Coloured Lights and A Quiet Thing are very beautiful. The ensemble numbers are terrific with the stylish wit and fun of Ebb’s lyrics in Coffee In A Cardboard Cup, There Goes The Ball Game, Ring Them Bells The Grass Is Always Greener, and Money, Money. They finish with a truly unique, funny and brilliant setting of New York, New York.
The World Goes Round – The Songs of Kander and Ebb is an absolute joy to watch and listen to and has prompted me to investigate more of the work of these two of the great American songwriters. Only on until Sunday 7th February at St James Theatre, London Victoria, you’ll have to be quick, but catch it if you can – you will not be disappointed! It really deserves to find a home for longer run.
Review by Catherine Françoise
The World Goes Round – The Songs of Kander & Ebb
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes including interval
West End stars and musical theatre concert artists Debbie Kurup (Chicago, The Bodyguard) and Oliver Tompsett (Wicked, We Will Rock You) headline this ‘seamlessly constructed song cycle of great theatre music‘ (Mark Shenton).
Featuring songs from the legendary Broadway songwriting duo’s shows, such as Cabaret, Chicago, Flora the Red Menace, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Rink, 70 Girls 70 and The Act, including ‘All That Jazz’, ‘Cabaret’, ‘Mr Cellophane’, ‘New York, New York’ and many more, with a live on-stage band.
This five-star-reviewed production transfers following its première at the Pheasantry in Chelsea, with the full original cast, which is completed by Steffan Lloyd-Evans, Sally Samad and Alexandra Da Silva.
2nd – 7th February 2016