One warm summer night last August, I found myself in Greenwich Village in a group crowded around an old upright piano while dozens of glistening Broadway enthusiasts sang “Maybe this Time,” the flamboyant tune from the musical Cabaret. Moving my lips just enough to feign that I actually knew the words, I looked around and realized that few of these people fit into any sort of stereotype I might have had about who would enjoy such things; sure, there was the token bald gay guy with his plastic square-rimmed glasses, but there was also the big black lady in the corner managing a reasonable harmony and the burly man with a leather jacket keeping down the bass line. And so I realized the beauty of show tunes: with just a little opening up to them, they have the power to make anyone want to burst into song.
Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, creators of the music from Cabaret as well as many other big hits, were perhaps the most successful pair at achieving this glorious phenomenon. Santa Cruz’s local Jewel Theatre Company has tapped into this genius, presenting The World Goes ‘Round, featuring hit after hit from Kander and Ebb’s best musicals.
“You can sing along, but please don’t come up and dance with them—I know some of you will want to,” Jewel Theatre’s artistic director Julie James announced before the start of the show.
When the curtains opened, the audience was transported to the Santa Cruz boardwalk with view of five colorful characters: the glamorous movie star, the ticket man, the teenage attendant, the tourist and the local soccer mom out for her power walk. They wove songs from Cabaret, Chicago, The Kiss of the Spiderwoman and more into a skeletal plot of love interests between the characters. They even sometimes broke out into dance—from the sexy Foss-esque moves accompanying Michelle Cabinian’s rendition of “All That Jazz” (from Chicago) to Lee Ann Payne’s outburst of impressive tap during “Arthur in the Afternoon” (from The Act).
But I could feel the anticipation within the audience as we approached the grand finale, the ensemble performance of “New York, New York” (from New York, New York). Even I found that I had finally figured out the words to be able to sing along.
Originally published in the Santa Cruz Weekly: