Back when I was a footloose and fancy-free single girl in New York City, I took a cabaret intensive course that concluded with a performance called The World Goes ‘Round. My classmates and I sang our hearts out at Don’t Tell Mama, a local nightclub near Broadway. In pre-American Idol days, this was a chance to live out the fantasy of being a lounge singer for a night. (Incidentally, I chose Diana Krall’s “Peel Me a Grape” for my number).
When I heard the Florida Studio Theatre was staging The World Goes ‘Round, I was really excited to see a professional production that reminded me of a night I remember so fondly. The musical revue, which opened last Friday, is an evening-length show comprising a collection of John Kander and Fred Ebb songs. The list of tunes includes the eponymous number as well as hits from Cabaret, Chicago, Curtains, and New York, New York. This superstar song-writing team, whose career as a duo spanned five decades, continued working together until their final production of The Scottsboro Boys in 2010, produced after Ebb’s death.
The result of Kander and Ebb’s incredible teamwork was a thick book of songs, which flowed seamlessly throughout the evening’s tribute. In powerhouse Taprena Michelle Augustine’s piping-hot opening with “The World Goes ‘Round,” which was reprised in different forms throughout the night; and a show-stopper featuring the full cast in “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup,” a thrilling commentary on our fast-paced, adrenaline-pumped modern lives, the show got off to a riveting start. From there, we were treated to number after number, some familiar songs, others new, by a gifted group of performers whose singing and dancing were truly impressive.
Augustine was a stand-out in every number, especially as a trashy complainer in “Class” and a dowdy housewife in “The Grass is Always Greener,” both of which she performed with the versatile Carey Anderson, whose sweet voice and demeanor were very appealing throughout the performance. Peter Gosik killed in the eerie, gorgeous number “I Don’t Remember You.” Zak Edwards, a real song-and-dance entertainer and a great tapper with a charming personality, came through strong in “Marry Me,” performed with Lauren Blackman. Blackman is a fine dancer and did a beautiful job in all of her star turns, especially “Arthur in the Afternoon” and “All That Jazz,” although I felt the musical accompaniment often overpowered her voice.
A final note: Don’t be dissuaded by the fact that the team performs on roller skates, which almost caused me to abort the mission. This is a first-class show that is well worth your time. You’ll feel like you have been transported to a New York City cabaret for a night, even if you never performed in one. Don’t miss it! For tickets, go to floridastudiotheatre.org or call (941) 366-9000.