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Group effort keeps this ‘World’ turning

Special to The Times

The operative word in “The World Goes ‘Round” at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach is “collaborators,” in this case John Kander and Fred Ebb. This smooth Musical Theatre West revival of the revue celebrating the songwriters behind “Cabaret” and “Chicago” is a prime example of integrated professionalism.

“World,” conceived in 1991 by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman and David Thompson, re-envisions some 30 Kander and Ebb numbers, from first hit (“My Coloring Book”) to last word (“Sara Lee,” venerating the queen of pound cake). The original production earned much acclaim, as did a cast including Robert Cuccioli, Karen Mason and Drama Desk-winner Karen Ziemba.

Under the expert guidance of director-choreographer John Vaughan and musical director Darryl Archibald, the endearing quintet here -- Lucy Daggett, Paige Price, Jennifer Shelton, Branch Woodman and Adrian Zmed -- are already winners. These versatile troupers propel the abstract scenario with effortless charm and airtight harmonizing.

As do the snappy designs. In tandem with Steven Young’s rich lighting and Lynda Krinke’s Crayola-hued costumes, Bradley Kaye’s smart set recalls various Reprise! outings, placing the ace band on high while moving panels shift the modernist palette.

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The show opens with the rich-voiced Shelton, who sells the title number (and everything else she sings) with thrilling clarity. Her colleagues follow, crooning “Yes” from “70 Girls 70.” That cult flop also supplies “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup,” here a hysterical paean to the shakes.

Other peaks include the ukulele-laden “Me and My Baby”; a tribute to choreographic sadism, “Pain”; and the Act 1 finale, which stages the title number from “The Rink” on roller skates.

The women sing “There Goes the Ball Game” in Andrews Sisters style. Zmed and Woodman memorably merge “I Don’t Remember You” and “Sometimes a Day Goes By.”

Daggett bounces elegantly from siren to clown, whether elegizing “Colored Lights” or rocking the house with “Ring Them Bells.” The nimble Price burns up the joint with “All That Jazz,” and attacks the Act 2 tap pas de deux with Woodman like a suicidal Marge Champion.

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Moreover, no matter how sick one is of “New York, New York,” it’s never been more delirious than in foreign translation, as the nutty finale demonstrates.

The chief drawback is one of substance, as a slightly generic quality pervades the proceedings. The show was intimately conceived for Manhattan’s smallish Westside Arts downstairs space, in which the dazzling execution conquered all. The largish Carpenter Center necessitates broader shorthand, eliminating subtlety and, sometimes, intelligibility.

Still, if this planet spins in “Carol Burnett Show” directions, that hardly inhibits the toe-tapping fun, and that’s show biz, kid.

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‘The World Goes ‘Round’

Where: Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach

When: Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sundays, 2 p.m.; May 4 only, 2 and 7 p.m.

Ends: May 11

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Price: $20-$45

Contact: (562) 430-2324

Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes


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