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Review: 'And the World Goes 'Round'
Meadow Brook closes season with musical tribute to Kander and Ebb

"Sometimes you're happy, and sometimes you're sad," a Kander and Ebb song says, but audience members at the opening night performance of "The World Goes 'Round" at Meadow Brook Theatre this past Saturday night were probably experiencing a plethora of other feelings, too.
Some were probably wondering how they were going to get home in the raging blizzard that was expected to strike while we were in the theater. Others – like the man sitting directly behind me – were likely curious why the production seemed so much like "Disney's On the Record" – without the glitter and glitz of a multi-billion dollar empire, of course.
The rest of us, however, were simply sitting back and enjoying this pleasant, low-key romp through the works of John Kander and Fred Ebb.
Who, some of you might be asking?
While not as celebrated as Broadway luminaries Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the team of Kander and Ebb secured a place in showbiz heaven for their catchy tunes that populate such musicals, films and television specials as "Cabaret," "Funny Lady," "Woman of the Year," "New York, New York" "Liza with a Z" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman."
The production, first staged off-Broadway in 1991, pays tribute to the men who would become the longest-running music-and-lyrics team in Broadway musical history. Their goal, co-conceiver David Thompson once wrote, was to "balance the standards" with "material perhaps not as well known" and to mix the "[s]ongs that are quintessential" with others that "you're surprised to learn they wrote."
The creators surely accomplished what they set out to do!
Although the revue is populated with about 30 tunes, there's little "book" to it. Therefore, it's up to a director to decide how creative he wants to be in tying the songs together.
The backdrop for Meadow Brook's season closer is a rehearsal – hence my neighbor's comparison to the recent Disney revue. (And the fact that the show's finale – "New York, New York" – is sung in a variety of foreign languages also begs the same comparison, although the concept actually originated with this production!)
Both before and throughout the show the actors meander about the stage, randomly entering and exiting, bantering back and forth. Mostly it seems "impromptu" – yet occasionally the chitchat feels scripted and overly rehearsed.
It's the music that really matters, however, and director John M. Manfredi has selected five talented performers for his intimate production. Individually, each is given a range of tunes to strut their stuff; together, their voices blend quite well.
A Meadow Brook musical would not be the same without Scott Crownover who long ago mastered the fine art of conquering his audience. "Sara Lee" – a tribute to the baked goods queen – and the personality-filled "Mr. Cellophane" are amongst his best solos.
Kate Willinger, who in the program states she's waited 15 years to do this show, knocks "Colored Lights" out of the ballpark early on. And the team of Willinger and Shannon Nicole Locke is delightfully crass in "Class" and has loads of fun with "The Grass is Always Greener."
Danny Jacobs returns to the Detroit area stage after too long an absence – and makes it look way too easy. His "Kiss of the Spider Woman" is especially well done.
A few numbers – both solos and group efforts – are merely adequate; as a team, however, they excel in the show's concluding numbers.
It's rare for a critic to compliment a musical director, but the very personable Stacy White -sitting upstage at her piano – has the best lines of the evening. And she received some of the loudest applause, too! (One can only imagine what wondrous noise her three-girl band could have made with a few more members and instruments!)
"The World Goes 'Round" Presented Wednesday through Sunday at Meadow Brook Theatre, on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills, through May 15. Tickets: $20 – $36. 248-377-3300. http://www.mbtheatre.com.
The Bottom Line: It won't knock your socks off, but "The World Goes 'Round" is a satisfactory conclusion to Meadow Brook's second solo season.

Tidbits: Theater News from Around Town
Planet Ant searches for film and video; Michigan theaters announce festival

ITEM: A call for entries has been issued for the third annual Planet Ant Film and Video Festival scheduled for June 16 at multiple venues throughout the area.
The festival is a celebration of independent movies and the people who make them.
In addition to traditional films and shorts, this year's festival will include screenings of music videos, experimental films and animation. Industry professionals and university and film school faculty will take part in the panel of judges, workshops and seminars.
Submissions must be received by Saturday, May 14.
A submission form can be downloaded from http://www.planetant.com.
For more information, call festival director Nate DuFort at 313-365-4948.
ITEM: The most collaborative single event in Michigan theater history will occur June 8 through 12 when Ann Arbor's Performance Network, The Mosh Pit and the Blackbird Theatre host the first annual Michigan Theatre Festival.
"For years, Michigan theaters have been looking for a way to showcase ourselves in a deeply collaborative way," Performance Network Artistic Director Carla Milarch recently said. "Now, having three Ann Arbor venues available will give us the real festival atmosphere we need to do that."
Besides the host theaters, participants include Meadow Brook Theatre, BoarsHead Theatre, Jewish Ensemble Theatre Company, Planet Ant, Plowshares Theatre and Williamston Theatre Project.
Each theater will produce one or two staged readings of plays written by a wide range of playwrights from across the country. Each will be presented twice for a total of 24 readings over a five-day period. Some will include talk-back sessions. Wrap parties are also planned.
In addition, the previously announced Heartlande Theatre Company's annual Play-by-Play marathon on June 11 will also participate in the festival.
"Ann Arbor will be literally teeming with actors, directors, playwrights and staff from theaters around the state for that whole week. It's a great opportunity for audiences to gain a real appreciation for the riches of the Michigan theater community," Milarch said.
For tickets or other information, call the Performance Network box office at 734-663-0681.



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