The World Goes ’Round: The Songs of Kander and Ebb performed by Performance Preparation Academy third years at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford.
Star rating: 4 stars ★ ★ ★ ★
You’d have to be seriously allergic to musicals not to enjoy this 32-song trawl through the genius of those Broadway giants John Kander and Fred Ebb, the team famous for Cabaret and Chicago as well as that anthem to the Big Apple, ‘New York, New York’.
An eclectic mix of love, torch and comic songs, many of them from lesser-known shows like The Act; The Rink; 70, Girls, 70; and Flora the Red Menace, The World Goes ‘Round was first conceived by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman and David Thompson as an Off-Broadway revue that ran for a year in 1991–2.
Here it is given a polished make-over by the triple-threat talents of Guildford’s Performance Preparation Academy third-year graduates under the expert direction of their head of musical theatre Gerry Tebbutt.
It was only 16 months ago that the Union Theatre on the London Fringe had a hit with World and these ‘divine nine’ measure up encouragingly to the professional standard set there by the likes of Lisa Stokke and Simon Green.
No doubt we shall be hearing a lot more from some of them, not least the clear and melodious Scott Livingstone, whose singing and acting skills also caught the eye as The Baker in PPA’s Into the Woods before Christmas.
He touchingly captures the humour and pathos of his Chicago solo ‘Mr Cellophane’ and extracts every last crumb from ‘Sara Lee’, a kitschy song about snack-food love (from The Act).
Again from Chicago, the ‘Class’ duet is an absolute hoot and the evening’s star turn – “Now no one even says ‘Oops’ when they’re passing the gas” – given the full treatment by little Nikita Johal, who punches well above her weight vocally, and Lauren Phillpot, a lady with a powerful belt and stage presence.
‘A Quiet Thing’, from one of their least successful shows Flora the Red Menace but maybe the most beautiful song they wrote, is sympathetically handled by Diana Field, while Daisy Wheeller’s perfectly-pitched ‘Coloured Lights’ (from The Rink), with appropriate decoration from the well-used back-screen projection, also impresses.
The mellow voices of Ryan Willis and Charlie Bowyer also give great pleasure, and although Rebecca Ibbott and Stuart Randall don’t quite get down to the bare essentials for ‘Arthur in the Afternoon’ as they did at the Union, it is quite raunchy enough for Guildford! This sly ode to midday adultery, written for Kander and Ebb favourite Liza Minnelli to sing in The Act, a 1977 musical destined to be doomed because of the eccentric behaviour of its troubled star, goes down a treat.
Rounding off the show with two mega-hits from Cabaret, the title song and ‘Money, Money’, both superbly choreographed by Jill Francis, and a cheekily multi-lingual ‘New York, New York’, this is a first-class job all round.
Two tuneful hours simply fly by with the considerable assistance of musical director Martin Waddington, Nicholas Charters and Matthew Bartlett, the hard-working trio backing a snazzily-dressed and well-lit cast. We look forward to Carousel in June.