By Barry Reszel
Lincolnshire’s Marriott Theatre, a decades-long Equity regional leader, opened its post-COVID (we hope) life with a consummately professional, vaccination- and mask-required production of The World Goes ‘Round. The five-performer, intermission-less ninety-minute musical revue features the works of John Kander and Fred Ebb, among the most acclaimed Broadway musical songwriting teams ever.
Director and Choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge teams with Set Designer Christopher Rhoton to lead audiences into an abandoned theater only to have the edifice spring to new life with the “We’re back!” dynamic quintet. These five terrific voices and athletic hoofers work their way through a menagerie of hits along with some seldom-heard B-sides from the prolific creative duo. More conglomeration of musical monologues than cogent story, The World Goes ‘Round includes numbers from Chicago, Funny Lady, Kiss of The Spider Woman, Woman of The Year and others, predominantly proffering a proper platform to parade the five onstage pros.
They are led by Allison Blackwell in her Marriott Theatre debut, but she’s no stranger to the Broadway faithful. Her Great White Way credits include A Night with Janis Joplin (Aretha Franklin), Pretty Woman: The Musical (Violetta), The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and Disney’s The Lion King. She opens the Marriott production with a sultry rendition of the title song and provides a true highlight in “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret.
Joseph Anthony Byrd returns to Marriott (Jacob, La Cage Aux Folles) and has also appeared as Lola in Kinky Boots on Broadway and in the Broadway tours of The Lion King and Mamma Mia! His rendition of character song “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago and exquisite dance steps with the lithe Amanda Rose are absolute takeaways for this production. For her part, Rose, also a Marriott newcomer, appeared in the Broadway and National Tour productions of Holiday Inn (Linda, u/s), Wicked (Nessarose), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Mrs. Bucket), Dr. Dolittle starring Tommy Tune and Oklahoma! (Laurey). Her “Arthur in the Afternoon” and “All That Jazz” are memorable takeaways that show off her triple threat talent.
Booming-voiced Jeff-winner Kevin Earley (Balladeer, Assassins) has appeared in Marriott shows including City of Angels, Pirates of Penzance (Jeff Nomination) and La Cage Aux Folles, among others. He particularly illustrates his true leading man presence with a halting rendition of the title song from Kiss of the Spider Woman.
And certainly not least, Chicagoland favorite Meghan Murphy returned from performing on a European river cruise just in time to again join her friends at Marriott. Murphy has graced the Lincolnshire stage numerous times, most recently in Mamma Mia! (Tanya, Jeff Nomination), City of Angels (Oolie/Donna, Jeff Nomination), Sleeping Beauty (Magenta) and Footloose (Betty Blast). “Colored Lights,” “Ring Them Bells” and “Isn’t This Better?” are her signature solo spotlight numbers here, delivered with her now-expected verve, sass and dazzle.
From this reviewer perspective, the tight harmonies, particularly heard among the ladies in “Trio” and others, are the show’s absolute highlights. So, too, are the reimagined, more purposefully jazzy versions of “Cabaret,” “New York, New York” and others that showcase the terrific Marriott orchestra, led by Patti Garwood.
If there’s a nit with this show, it truly lies in the decision to let this be the first title produced following the long COVID hiatus. To be fair, Marriott typically has done one small show per season, and this production was on the books when the lights went out. But And the World Goes ‘Round is a ballad-laden cabaret that might be best enjoyed on a couch sipping an Old-Fashioned. That doesn’t make it bad, but with audiences champing at the bit to see a FULL-SCALE BROADWAY-STYLE MUSICAL PRODUCTION and a gaggle of Chicagoland musical theater talent dying to get back onstage (and backstage), this choice feels a tad disappointing.
And the World Goes ‘Round runs through Nov. 7 at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL. For tickets and more information, please here.
Photos by Liz Lauren.