Good news. O'Connell & Company is back doing what it does best: packaging together Broadway melodies in a revue of sorts, hoofing and schlepping about, getting serious when called for and singing their big hearts out.
The show, just opened, is "The World Goes 'Round," a gathering of songs by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb. It's a streamlined version of an earlier idea by Susan Stroman, Jacques Deval and David Thompson. Eleven Broadway musicals are represented, many from smash hits such as "Cabaret," "Chicago," "Funny Lady" and "Woman of the Year," with many more from the fabled song writing team's less distinguished works. It's a slick list, music as commentary, tell-a-story, wise, clear, concise and clever songs of our time.
Joey Bucheker directs a talented and entertaining cast of five: Bobby Cooke, J.R. Finan, Pamela Rose Mangus, Katy Miner and Victoria Perez. You know that "chemistry" that directors seek? They have it. They are at home with songs of love found, lost or unrequited, smile-producers like "Sara Lee," "Class" or "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup"; sexy, infectious riffs from "Chicago" or trying to warble and stay upright on roller skates during "The Rink," from a 1984 Kander-Ebb collaboration of the same title that, well, underwhelmed. But, even lesser light, inconsistent efforts like that one and "70, Girls, 70," "The Happy Time," "The Act," "Flora, The Red Menace" and "Steel Pier," had tunes with staying power. "The World Goes Round" highlights many of these and the company does them justice.
Director Bucheker has paired his singers well and when the quintet joins together, on "Money, Money" and the title tune from "Cabaret," their harmonies surprise and please. Bucheker wears a choreographer's hat, too; on occasion, movement is endearingly clunky. But, the pace is generally full of nonstop fun, with minutes of overwrought kept to a minimum. Some pensive minutes showcase the challenges that out-of-context retrospectives like this present. "Kiss of the Spider Woman," for example. It's a downer.
There is great work by old pro Mangus and the cool, capable Miner on "The Grass is Always Greener," from one of Kander & Ebb's "star vehicles." (It was for Lauren Bacall specifically, but the team wrote often with Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli in mind.) "Colored Lights," with the marvelous Perez, is Jacques Brel-like; "Mr. Cellophane," with the versatile Cooke, draws more laughs than sympathy. It works, but it's different.
Pianist Ron Swick is musical director and conductor of an on-stage trio.
Kander & Ebb have had great exposure in Western New York thanks to Brother Augustine Towey's Niagara University Theatre. The award-winning team has given NU permission many times to produce its musicals. In 1994, NU presented honorary doctorates to the pair. Western New York theater talent abounds with Kander-Ebb veterans.