AND THE WORLD GOES 'ROUND
Music by John Kander: Lyrics by Fred Ebb: Conceived by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman and David Thompson
Westside Theatre - Off-Broadway - March 18, 1991 (408 perfs)
"Rehearsals had been under way for nearly a month. In another week, we'd be in the Westside Theatre on West 43rd Street. On this particular day, John and Fred were coming to the studio. Of course, their appearance wasn't at all unusual. They were one of us. Even so, every few days we sat them down and showed them our progress. We wanted to make sure our interpretation of the number matched their own interpretation. Composers and lyricists are notorious for wanting their songs sung in a very particular way. For some reason, they think they know how a song is intended to sound.
We were slightly apprehensive because we had been tinkering with one of their best known songs, Cabaret. We had changed not only the melody but the words as well. Our intention, unlike our intention for most of the other songs in the show, was to find a new way to present the song: to make it different-fresh-and as exciting as it must have been the first time it was ever performed. Now it was time to see if we had succeeded.
John and Fred arrived. The performers stood around the piano and sang David Loud's new arrangement. When they had finished, a few moments passed. Nothing. Maybe this time we had gone too far. Finally, Fred broke the silence and said with a broad smile, "Well, you made the old turkey gobble again."
Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman and I began working on And the World Goes 'Round just after finishing the New York revival of Kander and Ebb's Flora, the Red Menace. The collaboration had been so rewarding that we were determined to work with John and Fred again. When the opportunity arose to create a revue of their material for Olympia Dukakis' Whole Theatre in the summer of 1989, we grabbed it. And went to work.
Amassing material from twenty-six years of collaboration was quite a challenge particularly when they have written so much show-stopping music. We wanted to create a show that would give the audience a glimpse into the musical world of Kander and Ebb.
Our goal was to balance the standards like "Cabaret", "Maybe This Time", and the "Theme from 'New York, New York'" with other material perhaps not as well known. We wanted songs from the early days of their collaboration (Sara Lee). Songs most recently written (Kiss of the Spiderwoman). Songs that are personal favourites (John/A Quiet Thing, Fred/The World Goes 'Round). Songs that are quintessential Kander and Ebb (The Grass is Always Greener). Songs that aren't heard often enough (Sometimes a Day Goes By and I Don't Remember You). Songs you're surprised to learn they wrote (My Coloring Book).
We listened to their music. Categorised numbers. Paired songs. Developed sequences. Then began the long poker game of selecting material for an evening of music that would be a seamless, uninterrupted roller-coaster ride from beginning to end. With the invaluable help of David Loud, David Crane and a crackerjack team of designers, we went to work.
The real work, however, began in 1963 when John and Fred began their own collaboration. Paired up by their publisher, Tommy Valando, John and Fred joined forces and wrote their first song - "My Coloring Book". Taking its success as a good omen, they began their first Broadway show Flora, the Red Menace, which was quickly followed by Cabaret, The Happy Time, Zorba, 70, Girls, 70, Chicago, The Act, Woman of the Year, The Rink, and Kiss of the Spiderwoman - plus the movie scores for such films as Cabaret, Funny Lady, and New York, New York.
They continued working together ... still collaborating ... still friends ... until the death of Fred Ebb and they were always excited about all the things possible in the world of the theatre. They are as different from one another as they can possibly be. Fred was born in New York City, John in Kansas City. John likes the country; Fred wouldn't be caught dead outside the city. John loves the opera; Fred prefered a good game of tennis. Their differences, however, were their strengths. And the success of their collaboration is apparent in the wealth of material they have produced.
That spirit of collaboration has been part of everything that has gone into And The World Goes 'Round.
Nowhere was this collaborative spirit more evident than during one of the last previews before opening night. It was just after midnight. The lobby was filled with an odd lot of people working on the show, all trying to solve the problem at hand: the "Theme from New York, New York" - the ultimate finale - wasn't working. This ubiquitous anthem seemed out of place. The song was so familiar, you could hear it in a foreign language and still know every word. We needed to find a way to make people listen to the song again. And that's when the idea struck. Why not actually sing it in a foreign language?
Without the safety net of rehearsals, the change went into the show cold. The cast learned the new lyrics. (They'd already learned how to skate and play the banjo; a little Berlitz was a breeze.) To say the least, we were apprehensive about John and Fred's reaction. It was a little bit like redesigning the Statue of Liberty and having the nerve to say it shouldn't be Bartoldi's mother, but yours. But as this kind of theatre story must always end, the next night the number worked perfectly. The audience cheered. To quote Fred, the old turkey gobbled again. After three years of collaboration, the show was finished. Our job was completed. The world could go 'round. And, with any luck, would continue to go 'round ... and 'round ... and 'round.
Musical Numbers: (and source)
- The World Goes 'Round - New York, New York
- Coffee in a Cardboard Cup - 70, Girls, 70
- Colored Lights - The Rink
- Sara Lee - The Act
- Arthur in the Afternoon - The Act
- The World Goes 'Round (reprise)
- My Coloring Book
- I Don't Remember You - The Happy Time
- Sometimes A Day Goes By - Woman of the Year
- All That Jazz - Chicago
- Mr. Cellophane - Chicago
- There Goes the Ball Game - New York, New York
- How Lucky Can You Get - Funny Lady
- Marry Me - The Rink
- A Quiet Thing - Flora, the Red Menace
- Kiss of the Spider Woman - Kiss of the Spider Woman
- The Grass is Always Greener - Woman of the Year
- The World Goes 'Round (reprise)
- We can Make It - The Rink
- Maybe This Time - Cabaret (the movie)
- Isn't This Better? - Funny Lady
- Trio - The World Goes 'Round (reprise)
- Money, Money - Cabaret (the movie)
- Cabaret - Cabaret
- Theme from New York, New York
- The World Goes 'Round (reprise) - New York, New York
Original Cast Recording - RCA Victor 09026-60904-2