Saturday, September 22, 2012

Actor’s Co-op Makes The World Go ‘Round

L-R: Robert W. Laur, Carrie Madsen, Selah Victor, Michael D'Elia.
Photos by Lindsay Schnebly

Coffee, and music, makes the world go ‘round in Robert Marra’s intelligent staging of John Kander & Fred Ebb’s The World Goes ‘Round, proving that a little care and ingenuity is all you need to turn a diverse set of songs into something special. The revue contains highlights from a number of familiar and not-so-familiar Kander & Ebb musicals, including Chicago, Funny Lady, Woman of the Year, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, and Cabaret, but had no story line as originally conceived in 1991. 

Marra changes that by following a day in the life of seven individuals who cross paths in a New York coffee shop. Songs are grouped to give each of the characters both an individual journey and a collective interaction that is very much a reflection of real life. The result is intimate storytelling at a level so painfully honest that you cannot help but be moved.

Here in the K&E, whose slogan reads “Coffee-Tea-Harmony,” we meet the coffee shop girl (Kristen Heitman), her boyfriend (Jeremiah Lowder), and her customers; a socialite (Carrie Madsen), a housewife (Jane Noseworthy at this performance), an older man (Robert W. Laur), and a business man (Michael D’Elia).  

Madsen is terrific as she expresses the ache of unfulfilled dreams in “Colored Lights,” and Noseworthy reveals her affair in “Arthur in the Afternoon” with a twinkle in her eye and captivating vocals. Later the pair offers a deeper look into their regrets as they sing with rueful admiration of the other in their humorous duet, “The Grass is Always Greener.” D’Elia shows self-deprecating charm in comedy songs like “Mr. Cellophane,” “Sara Lee,” and “Kiss of the Spiderwoman,” and Laur quietly sings of life after the loss of the one he loves in the poignant “Sometimes a Day Goes By.”

Heitman and Lowder are on the outs and the whole of his stage time is dedicated to winning her back. It isn’t looking good for the penitent young man until “Yes” brings all of the customers together to support him. Their shared goal is accompanied by vocal harmonies that enrich the scene’s underlying anticipation and resonate warmly in the Crossley Theater, so realistically re-designed by Andy Hammer that you feel like you could walk right up to the counter and order your own cappuccino at intermission. The detail work is terrific, with Michael Brill’s orchestra hidden behind the chalkboard scrim and the set fashioned on the diagonal for optimal viewing.

Gina D'Acciaro as the Homeless Woman

Outside the shop, a homeless woman (Gina D’Acciaro) watches everyone through the window. D’Acciaro gives a deeply moving performance as the broken woman who embodies the fragility of life, out of place in the world she used to know but still a part of its periphery. The revelation of her former glory and transformation back to the present in "How Lucky Can You Get" is a visceral way to end Act I and Marra achieves the surprising effect so powerfully that you can’t wait to see what he has in store for Act II.

With humor, heartbreak, elegance, and style he shows us that you can’t assume you know a person’s story just by looking at him or her. His thoughtful, intimate way of allowing us to view this little slip of time and make that connection is what makes me love the theatre. Success is fleeting. Kindness matters. And maybe, if we try, we can solve at least a few of the world's problems over a simple cup of coffee...with or without the cardboard cup.

The World Goes ‘Round, through October 14 at Actor’s Co-op, 1760 N. Gower Street, Hollywood, (located on the grounds of First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood). Regular admission, $34, Students $25. Group rates available (minimum 6 people). Call (323) 462-8460 x 300 or go to

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