In bringing And the World Goes Round: The Songs of Kander and Ebb to Boston's Lyric Theatre in this spring, producing artistic director Spiro Veloudos has done theatergoers and life-worshippers alike an enormous service. We get to revel in this most optimistic of seasons, accompanied by the richly layered music and lyrics of the team that gave us Cabaret, Chicago, Funny Lady, Zorba, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and, of course, New York, New York.
To do this, Veloudos has assembled an exceptional ensemble of five Boston-area actor/singers: veterans Merle Perkins, Mary Callanan, Christine Maglione, and Frank Gayton, along with promising newcomer David Foley, Jr. Together, the cast romps, slinks, vamps, warbles, and even roller skates (don't ask--just see it) through 31 songs collected from a collaboration that has lasted for nearly four decades.
The challenge of carrying off this much material--with so few people, and so much movement--without allowing the pace to droop makes huge demands on the energy of the actors (not to mention their voices). Aided by the direction of Peter A. Carey, the choreography of Ilyse Robbins, and the musical direction of Jonathan Goldberg, the ensemble succeeds admirably.
Merle Perkins' smoky voice, combined with her ability to live in the darker areas of the human soul, are always riveting. Frank Gayton's self-deprecating charm and deadpan humor work very well with this material. Christine Maglione does a good job with frenetic sexiness, although she seems even more comfortable in the very funny character pieces she pulls off. When Mary Callanan loosens up and starts to sell her song-stories, rather than simply singing the words, she is very powerful and very funny. And David Foley, Jr., a senior at Boston University, has a wonderful voice that--when he is able to connect himself with the emotional complexity of the piece as well as its technical demands--promises to make him a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.