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The World Goes ‘Round encapsulates the Kander-Ebb notion of romance and adventure

The ushers at Marriott Theatre welcome ticket holders to The World Goes ‘Round with warm smiles – and a request to present proof of vaccination. After months of closure, the world really has gone ‘round. Pre-pandemic, the folks holding those scanners at theaters throughout the Chicago area merely dinged our tickets; now they’re also guardians of our health.

Settling into seats, masked and ready for a reunion with actors onstage, the audience gets a hint of what lies ahead. A tattered curtain draped around a metal pipe cuts across Marriott’s theater in-the-round and a battered piano sinks into the floor. Everything is askew. Somehow, a revue of songs by composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb – creators of jaundiced hits like Cabaret, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman – seems about right.

Thirty years ago, a team of musical theater pros (director Scott Ellis, choreographer Susan Stroman and librettist David Thompson) crafted a selection of Kander and Ebb’s songs into an Off-Broadway revue. Debuting Marriott’s 2012-22 season in a production directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge, The World Goes ‘Round encapsulates the Kander-Ebb notion of romance and adventure. It’s a tattering, battering experience that’s hard to resist, in this writer’s view.

Case in point, are the hangovers – physical and emotional – in the iconic All That Jazz number from Chicago: “I bought some aspirin/Down at United Drug/In case you shake apart/And want a brand new start.” As delivered by the five-person ensemble with silky voices and smooth moves, the song drew this viewer right into their self-destructive night on the town. Then there’s Arthur in the Afternoon from The Act in which a married woman restores her spirit by buoyant daytime trysts with a man who exchanges his services for cash.

Coffee in a Cardboard Cup, a number from Kander and Ebb’s forgotten 1971 show 70, Girls, 70, jump starts the action. Fifty years after the authors’ lament about the hurried pace of modern life, the cast metes out a caffeine buzz with Starbucks Ventis clutched in their frenzied hands. Money, Money, Cabaret’s take on pre-WWII Germany’s economic desperation, is no less savage today, especially as the top-hatted actors pick each other’s pockets.

Nonetheless, The World Goes ‘Round is a solid choice for those who want a large pinch of salt mixed into the sugar of musical theater. With a team of ushers to make sure we’ve got our masks and our jabs, and no intermission in order to reduce mingling time, the show is also a safe bet when it comes to staying healthy for the theater season ahead of us.