REVIEW: THE WORLD GOES ROUND (St James Theatre)
‘The World Goes Round’ is a musical review showcasing the songbook of John Kander and Fred Ebb: the phenomenally successfully songwriting duo responsible for ‘Cabaret’, ‘Chicago’ and ‘Kiss of the Spiderwoman’, to name but a few.
This production, originally presented at cabaret and dinner venue ‘The Pheasantry’ in July last year, is now presented at the St James Studio with the same team and cast assembled.
When this musical review was conceived by director Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman and David Thompson back in the early nineties, I imagine they wanted to use the work of Kander and Ebb to tell a story or form a sort of narrative; using song and dance to take the audience on a journey. Sadly, this is not the case with this production, which is more concert than review. This may be because the tiny stage of the St James is prohibitive. Or, perhaps, a limited production budget didn’t stretch to employing a director or a choreographer to bring their creative vision to the piece (neither is credited in the programme).
The cast is a mixed bag: concerts in an intimate space such as the St James Studio need performers who not only sing songs but live them, taking the audience on their journey with them. With the exception of West End veterans Oliver Tompsett and Debbie Kurup, the cast here lacked the charisma to really take audiences along for the ride.
Highlights were anything performed by the stirringly intense Tompsett, whose honeyed tones bought ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman’, ‘I Don’t Remember You’ and ‘We Can Make It’ to life. When he sang, I sat up. This is an actor who demands your attention. Kurup was sadly underused: I would have loved to have seen her perform ‘Ring Them Bells’, for instance, which I’m sure she would have pulled off with aplomb.
There were moments of fun when the full company were assembled: ‘The Rink’ was simple but effectively done with some wonderful ‘skating arms’. ‘Coffee in a Cardboard Cup’ was also enjoyably performed, with a good amount of humour, characterisation and appropriate props employed.
The four piece band make a delightful noise under the stewardship of MD Kris Rawlinson, which was balanced perfectly with the vocalists (props to the sound guy). Indeed, I would happily listen to the album of this production as it was delightfully pleasing on the ear: each and every performer has a great voice. As a theatrical experience though, ‘The World Goes Round’ left me wanting more.
Reviewed by Jody Tranter
Photo: Tiffany Slagle
The World Goes Round is playing at the St James Studio until 7 February 2016