“Love Makes the World Go ‘Round” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ February 4, 2013


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

There is much to like about the Phoenix Theatre’s world premiere musical revue, “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round.”  It features 40 delightful Bob Merrill’s pop hit tunes plus songs from his nine musicals.

And considering Merrill, a composer/lyricist who isn’t a household name, composed “Carnival,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Henry, Sweet Henry,” “New Girl in Town,” and Take Me Along,” and wrote the lyrics for Jule Styne’s tunes in “Funny Girl” and “Sugar” that’s an impressive collection of Broadway musicals.  His pop songs include “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window” and “Mambo Italiano” so it’s surprising that Merrill isn’t better known.  And since “Glee’s” pianist, Brad Ellis, did the show’s musical arrangements, he has come to Phoenix Theatre to play the songs while his television smash is on a filming hiatus.

Like most jukebox musical revues, “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round” has a frail premise but since the songs are such winners, the show entertains.  The revue takes place in a seedy Manhattan piano bar where three women gather to compare their very different lives.  Irene is a cynical pessimist who doubts everything; Anna is considering a divorce and represents the old guard; and Natalie is the young optimist who hasn’t experienced the others many setbacks so she’s more confident.

The three character concept represents the shows biggest problem that must be resolved before the new show has a chance at success.  Two of the characters, Irene and Anna, are drawn clearly and prove consistent in their approach to life’s challenges.  Natalie needs to be better developed so she’s more believable and, like the other two, represents a specific character type.

Director Larry Raben doesn’t do much with the predictable plot that has the three women make superficial comments as they move to another Merrill song.  Everybody trudges around the piano in boring patterns.

Fortunately, the show has three marvelous talents playing the women.  Patti Davis Suarez plays the flip Irene with her usual poise and assured singing.  Jeannie Shubitz uses her pleasing voice as she essays the by-the-book Anna.  Allison Houston plays the unfocused Natalie with bubbly charm.  As the chatty piano player, Ellis relaxes the audience before the show begins and, as he chats up the three singers, he draws each out.

If, like me, you’ve seen all of Bob Merrill’s shows, “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round” entertains.  If the shows and songs aren’t familiar, you’ll marvel at Merrill’s songwriting talents but the show will become just another jukebox musical.  “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round” continues through February 17.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theater box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: C