Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
With director Bruce Linser at the helm, MNM's the World Goes 'Round joins rank with other "creatively reimagined" summertime productions in South Florida. The ample stage of the Rinker Playhouse, with an image of the Earth bursting through a brick wall overhead amidst beans of light focused downward, provides a strong visual backdrop for the show. Linser has also made strong choices for the settings of the songs within the show. As this is a revue, placing the songs in the context of the show from which they are derived would perhaps be a choice that is all too easy. Linser has reimagined the setting of each song whenever possible and reassigned songs to some of the characters, adding characters and even dialogue not in the original script of the revue. The lighting and sound, use of space, and live, five-piece band are all top notch.
OK, so the start of the show is a bit bland in the vocal hands of Jinon Deeb as she sings the title song. It is a song in need of much more grit or soul rather than the straight, sweet rendition tendered in this production. It also gave us no character or setting from which the rest of the show was to be launched. Fortunately, the rest of the cast soon joins in as they make their way through the crowd to take their places on stage. Jinon later redeems herself in a charming version of "Ring Them Bells" and the show takes off at a pace.
A "buff-alicious" (the adjective used by the woman behind me during intermission) Clay Cartland is used as the male love interest throughout the show. His high-energy and strong stage presence make him the most animated and watchable during group numbers. He sets the bar for other cast members, who don't all rise to the occasion. Undoubtedly, it is his shirtless appearance as a male gigolo in the song "Arthur in the Afternoon" that garnered the recognition of the guest behind me, but his contribution to the cast is far more substantial than eye-candy. Cartland is both funny and dramatic when called for, and even turns in a nice version of the difficult song "Kiss of the Spiderwoman."
Shelly Keelor is used as the beautiful, ever-so-slightly older woman. A young Olivia Rose Chiampou is used as a younger-version Shelley Keelor, roller-skating her way through her memories as she sings "Colored Lights." Keelor gets both the comic and the emotional parts of this song in her delivery. I really enjoyed the staging, in particular Keelor's singing and acting during the song "How Lucky Can You Get," which places a married woman at odds with her husband's mistress du jour.
Michael Scott Ross seems under-used in this production. Aside from "Sara Lee" and a brief appearance in "Ring Them Bells," he gets little stage time. His performance overall is in need of a boost of energy and stronger character choices. His track (Man 1) is usually given to a stronger dancer, and whether it is his own skills or the choreography during the dance duet in "When It All Comes True," we never got to see that side of his talent.
Leah Sessa knocks it out of the park with her passionate rendition of "Maye This Time," the best sung solo number in the show. She also has a strong voice and stage presence throughout the show.
At times the staging is overwrought, such as for the trio "Maybe This Time/We Can Make It/Isn't This Better," which grasps at straws for tortured motivation angst. The staging for "Me and My Baby" is disappointing in its employment of a cheap gimmick that is funny for three seconds. And the self-deprecating simplicity of "Mr. Cellophane" is manipulated into a physical comedy like something out of a Keystone Cops bit. Other songs, such as "There Goes The Ballgame" and "Marry Me/Sometimes A Day Goes By" are so well set-up and staged that one wonders why they aren't always done that way. Group numbers such as "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup" and "The Rink" are visually engaging. The scene surrounding "Class," with two actresses portraying thoughtlessly loud theatre patrons fresh from the Bronx, is surely an audience favoritepossibly because it seems all too familiar in South Florida.
From start to finish, the show is a theatrical roller-coaster ride. Though some bits land less entertainingly than others, the creativity and commitment of the production is remarkable, and it is always enjoyable to see new life breathed into the familiar.
the World Goes Round appeared at the Marshall E. Rinker Playhouse of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts through August 21, 2016. The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is located at 701 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach, FL. For tickets and information you may contact them by phone at 561-832-7469, (561-832-SHOW), or 1-800-572-8471 or online at www.kravis.org.
Sound Design: Kenny Reiss
Stage Manager: Mikel Gambuto*
*Indicates member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage mangers in the United States.