Players Theatre Company are about to stage a relatively obscure show called ‘And The World Goes Round’.
With lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb; it was conceived by director Scott Ellis, choreographer Susan Stroman, and librettist David Thompson, who collaborated on such Kander and Ebb shows as Steel Pier and the 1996 revival of Chicago. It opened on March 18, 1991 at Manhattan’s off-Broadway Westside Theatre, and closed on March 8, 1992, after 408 performances. It features songs from such brilliant shows as Chicago, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Flora the Red Menace and Cabaret, just to name a few. With a highly talented cast and strong, enthusiastic production team on board, this production is set to be a lot of fun and a great success!
Director Michaela Smith started in Theatre over 13 years ago and all she was interested in was Acting. Ironically, Players was the very first company where she walked the boards, in an end of year concert of all things! Things have changed a lot for her since then. “Players also gave me my very first opportunity at Directing and essentially railroaded me into working on Musicals when my background is in straight Theatre! I’ve acted in all sorts of different parts onstage – both straight Theatre and Musicals – and I must confess that although I adore straight Acting, Musicals now hold a special place in my heart. I have spent more time directing Musicals than straight Theatre and I’m still not entirely sure how that happened…but I’ve loved every minute! In terms of future aims, I’d just like to keep doing what I’m doing, finding interesting shows and helping to foster all facets of the amazingly talented people I meet. There is nothing more satisfying than working with talented, intelligent, interesting performers.”
For Musical Director Phill Scanlon it all started in another State. “I grew up just south of Tamworth in NSW and was involved in their theatre company for a couple of years then moved to Sydney and attended Brentstreet School of Performing Arts. After moving to Melbourne, I got involved in The Scarlet Pimpernel with NOVA and I have been doing shows ever since. I learnt piano for 10 years and have been playing for over 20. I’ve sung all my life and I love performing. There’s nothing like having the audience in the palm of your hand. This has been a different aspect of Theatre for me and one that I hope to do again. It’s a challenging and rewarding job and I love that companies such as Players give people a go at something they are passionate about.”
Choreographer Victoria Rendall caught the theatre bug as a child. “My mum took me to amateur and professional Musicals from a very early age, when my dance teachers were appearing in them and from then I was hooked. I think my dance teaching and fear of auditioning started my interest in Choreographing in high school and I fed my addiction to the stage by stepping in if someone couldn’t perform.”
“I’ve worked with MDMS, BuSTCo, Waterdale and Players, and I’ll do anything to be involved in a show – except MD as only talented people can do that well – which is why I’ve Directed, Choreographed, Stage Managed, worked Front of House, Backstage, Sound and even worked on Committees. I’m not afraid to get down and dirty and do the jobs people find boring because I love working with people who have the same passion I do.”
Why did Players decide on ‘As The World Goes ‘Round?’ It is rarely performed, even though it has some of Kander and Ebb’s best known hit tunes in it.
Michaela explains. “When Players asked me to come up with a show to direct for first season this year, I was casting around for something in a similar vein to the one I did last year, Love|Sick – that is, a concert style show that would showcase a small cast of talented performers in a variety of different roles. World Goes ‘Round was suggested to me and when I saw the song list, it seemed to fit the bill perfectly! Heaps of fantastic songs, some well known and quite a few gems I was happy to discover for the first time. The quality of the songs made choosing this show an easy task.”
Phill adds, “I have been involved in 3 productions of Cabaret previously and as hard as the music is I felt like I was up for the challenge. Some of the most famous Kander and Ebb songs have been twisted from power ballads to jazzy quintets. The songs are fantastic and I wanted to be a part of a great show.”
For Choreographer Victoria Rendall it was a combination of the Music and Dance that drew her to the show. “I think the first thing was ‘All That Jazz’ from Chicago and ‘Money Money’ from Cabaret are just two of the songs in the show! I loved that it would be a small cast and I LOVED that we would have tap dancing. I also wanted to work with Michaela and Phill and I like that we are putting on a show that is relatively unknown.”
Michaela suggests the reason ‘And the World Goes ‘Round’ is rarely performed could be $s. “It’s hard to say whether the show is not performed often due to it’s relative obscurity or it’s revue style set-up. It may be a combination of the two things. I’d say that when companies are looking at doing a concert style show, they simply create their own, rather than paying the fees it costs for an already established revue.”
Phill thinks companies should do it more. “To be honest I’m not sure why it’s not done by Theatre Companies. It should be done more to showcase how brilliant Kander and Ebb were. Even though they basically had a couple of hit shows, some of their not so well known shows have such beautiful story telling ballads and some hot jazzy numbers. It seems to me that if a company does a revue, they tend to put it together themselves with all the new or popular shows that are around at the time.”
Victoria adds. “Although made for a small cast, ‘And the World Goes ‘Round’ is a massive show. We doubled the size of the original cast and it is still physically and vocally demanding on the performers. I think have not seen the possibilities that ‘And the World Goes ‘Round’ presents. Don’t let the need for roller skates scare you away from this amazing show!”
Concerts and Revues seem to be a popular choice for a lot of Theatre Companies now days as it is certainly a chance for performers to showcase their talents but what sets ‘And the World Goes ‘Round’ apart from these …how is it different you may ask?
“The only real difference with this show” says Michaela “is that it focuses exclusively on theworks of Kander and Ebb. The beauty of this is that many people know their songs but have never heard their names before. Hopefully our show will let the audiences know that this is the brilliant team that created not only Chicago and Cabaret but also New York, New York, Funny Lady and a host of other fantastic productions.”
‘And the World Goes ‘Round’ is not a concert or a revue, it is a show that has already been written. The production team putting it on does not choose the songs or come up with a theme. Victoria says “If you are stuck for choreography there is even a very thick manual for you to use (which I didn’t, for the record). There is more dancing/movement than usually seen in a concert or revue or variety for that matter and, as I haven’t mentioned this at all, there is also roller skating, which is not often seen on the stage, and I don’t believe I’ve seen Starlight Express here yet.”
There must have been many highlight during rehearsals, especially with a whole cast on Roller Skates but Michaela found it hard to pick one.
“There have been many highlights so far but I certainly expect the performances to top them! Some of the most enjoyable things for me have been getting to know some of these fantastic songs, many of which I had never heard before; working with such a fantastically talented cast and also coming up with some new ways to present some of the better known numbers in the show. Bring on opening night!’
The whole process has been a highlight for Phill! “So many highlights so far for me and more to come. This being my Musical Director debut every step has been a challenge and I have really enjoyed myself doing this show and I will hopefully do more. Having a great backup support by friends and production team has been great as well.”
Watching the cast roller skate has definitely been a highlight for Victoria. “Seeing the reluctance when they were asked to take off their roller skates to continue rehearsal, even more so. Personally, watching the cast take instructions/guidance/demands that you have given and produce a performance with the passion and energy that they give every time they rehearse is the best part.”
Michaela really can’t speak for the cast but says that several of them have mentioned how much they are enjoying working with each other, one of the cast even said that she was enjoying the rehearsals so much, she didn’t really mind about the performances! Now that’s a rarity in theatre.
From Michaela’s perspective they have been a great fun bunch to work with, lots of energy and much fun to be had from rehearsals. “We have really worked them hard! When you see how much they have to do onstage, even when they’re not singing, you will be hard pressed to fault their dedication and talent.”
Phill feels lucky to have such an amazing cast who pick up their songs extremely quickly. “I have loved working with them all. We have a tight cast and they’re a great support network for each other. ‘And the World Goes ‘Round’ has a lot of songs and for such a short rehearsal time having such talent has been a blessing. Hearing the band in their first rehearsal was an amazing experience and I can’t wait for the audience to see the cast and band and how amazing they are.”
Victoria adds. “We were so lucky with our cast. They are all very talented and happy to indulge my choreographic fantasies and give anything a go, from rolling on the floor to roller skating. Dancers and non dancers alike have put their heart and soul into this show, which is obvious in their performances.
Well it all sounds very exciting so get YOUR skates on and book your tickets to what sounds like a very entertaining evening!
And The World Goes Round opens at The Doncaster Playhouse on Friday 2nd July and runs until Saturday 10th July. Bookings 98475501 See ‘What’s’ On section for more details.