The World Goes ‘Round, a two-act musical revue at AVO Playhouse in Vista, is really one extended session of “Kander & Ebb Karaoke”. In it, five fresh-faced singers perform 30 mostly memorable tunes by the estimable Broadway composing team of John Kander and Fred Ebb. They’re backed simply and elegantly by Moonlight Stage Productions Musical Director Elan McMahan on piano and Mark Phelps on bass. This allows Kander & Ebb’s alternately frothy and witty numbers to shine without being overpowered by swooning Broadway-type orchestration.
Some of Kander & Ebb’s best work is included – namely, Chicago, from which we hear “All That Jazz,” “Class,” “Mr. Cellophane” and “Me and My Baby.” They’re reminders why recent stagings of Chicago at both San Diego Musical Theater and the Welk Resort Theatre were so popular. Chicago’s a show that never gets moldy. The same can’t be said for Cabaret, whose “Maybe This Time,” “Money, Money” (from the film) and title tune do sound worn out after all these years. The World Goes ‘Round also taps songs from less remembered Kander & Ebb shows like Rink and The Happy Time, but it does include the hilarious slice of philosophy “The Grass is Always Greener” from 1981’s Woman of the Year. Ensemble members Chelsea Franko and Marlene Montes do that one great justice, just as they do earlier with the salty-mouthed “Class” from Chicago. Other teasing delights are “Arthur in the Afternoon” from The Act and a likably silly tribute to Sara Lee and her baked goodies. These comic moments are a welcome break from the lion’s share of The World Goes ‘Round’s sincere, ballad-heavy repertoire. Franko, a standout in Moonlight Stage Production’s The Who’s Tommy last summer, is also the sparkplug in this five-member cast, completed by Montes, Kristen Lamoureux, Casey Garritano and Benjamin Lopez, all of the latter making their AVO Playhouse debuts.
David Engel directs and choreographs this production of The World Goes ‘Round, though the dancing is on the elementary side given the restraints of the set. It, like the few bits played for laughs, takes a back seat to the Kander & Ebb numbers, which follow one after the other jauntily and cleanly as a jukebox in fine working order.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat