The Bells Ring Loud for “The World Goes ‘Round” The Songs of Kander & Ebb
Stepping into the theater at Mac-Haydn is akin to stepping into a 1940’s nightclub in Manhattan, or a somewhat jazzed-up version of the Kit Kat Club in Cabaret. Both are fitting representations for their current production The World Goes Round, The Songs of Kander & Ebb. For those unfamiliar with the artists by name, you will certainly know their works: Cabaret, Funny Lady, Chicago, New York New York and some of their lesser known titles that have given us many familiar songs; Kiss of the Spider Woman, Liza with a Z, The Act, The Happy Times, Woman of the Year…
Set designer Kevin Gleason has created an intimate atmosphere with an onstage bandstand and intriguing light panels that make a faux proscenium that constantly changes throughout the performance feeding the audience with words like nostalgia, memory, emotion, heartache, followed by their dictionary pronunciation and definition. In case the audience is neither clever nor smart enough to decipher the subtext of the performance, Gleason, and Director Robin Campbell have chosen to spoon feed it to us. Despite the somewhat heavy handedness of it all, it works… and works well. If only someone were to serve dry martinis at our places, it would have been perfect.
The two-hour performance (plus intermission) is pretty much a nightclub act, presented by six marvelously talented performers and six equally talented musicians under the musical direction of Walter “Bobby” McCoy. Much like any nightclub act back in the day, you expect to look around the audience to see men in tuxedos, ladies in sequins and chiffon, and the cigarette girl walking up and down the aisles. The audience is treated to a virtual cornucopia of song and dance. The choreography runs the gambit from the simplistic to a wonderful tap dance sequence by Kylan Ross and Amber Mawande-Spytek. There are a number of company songs, which show off the voices of the six in a myriad of intricate harmonies that take us from the great MGM type musicals of yesteryear to the tight hard rhythms of the Manhattan Transfer and Pentatonix.
Each performer is also given their chance to shine in the spotlight, and shine they do. The solos and duets tend to the slower side of the Kander & Ebb songbook and showcase the grand voices of the cast. Mawande-Spytek opens the show in a stirring rendition of the title song, And the World Goes Round, setting the tone for the evening. Gabe Belyeu reminds us again of his incredible on stage versatility from the comic Sara Lee and to the dramatic Kiss of the Spider Woman. Always a pleasure to watch, no one seems more at home on a stage than he. Liz Gurland seems equally at home in the more comic numbers and shows what a performer can do given great material to work with like Ring Them Bells and Class. Erin Spears Ledford and William Taitel, neither strangers to the Mac-Haydn stage present strong performances and round out the abundance of talent on the stage.
Robin Campbell has taken a masterful grasp on the directing and choreography, Andrew Gmoser steps up to the plate to complete the package with his intricate lighting and effects.
29 numbers present an evening, or afternoon, of sheer delight. That’s what you’ll find all month long at Mac Haydn Theatre. The World Goes Round kicks off their fall season and they have rung all the bells to make it a glorious second half season starter. Once again, Producing Artistic Director John Saunders’ staff and artists present consistent quality talent and an exceptional few hours of escape. Sadly, the performance we attended was seen by less than 60 persons. There is plenty of room in the theater to safely distance oneself, everyone is masked and vaccinated. If theater is to continue to make a return, it must be supported. There is no better way to take that first step then a trip to the Mac… the world goes round… perhaps Kander and Ebb saw something we didn’t know about yet.. but it is time to jump back on.
For ticket information go to www.machaydntheatre.org or call 518-392-9292.