In 1962, music publisher Tommy Valando introduced composer John Kander to lyricist Fred Ebb.
The two were great on their own. Kander wrote dance arrangements for “Gypsy” and “Irma la Douce.” Ebb co-wrote lyrics for pop stars and theatrical musicals alike.
But the introduction led Kander and Ebb to try collaborating with one another.
The pair would go on to write music for some of the most legendary musicals ever produced on Broadway — “Cabaret,” “Chicago,” “Funny Lady,” “Zorba” and “Flora, The Red Menace,” among others.
Now, the Linden Community Theatre is bringing their songs to life in “And the World Goes ‘Round.”
Performing at the Stockton School of Performing Arts, the five-person cast will sing and dance to favorites like “Mr. Cellophane,” “New York, New York” and “All That Jazz.”
While it’s a musical revue, director Martin Lehman saw a loose story in the show.
“It’s about two people who fall in love and then fall out of love, but the story is told with three different women and two different men who represent different aspects of the personalities of those two people,” he said.
The revue was first developed from the music of Kander and Epps in 1991, the brainchild of director Scott Ellis, choreographer Susan Stroman and lirettist David Thompson. Stroman’s influence especially shows in the selection of several powerful pieces for the female cast members, Lehman said.
“That’s one of the things Kander and Ebb do really well, write music for women,” he said. “The female characters in those shows are so strong and so nuanced and so layered.”
Karene Vocque, Rae Ann Tourville and Zada McClendon, who will be performing the three roles for women in the Linden production, will be showcasing their superb talent, he said.
The trio, who auditioned for their roles in the show, are joined by Dennis Beasley and Kyle Beal, who Lehman sought out to fill out the cast.
“I knew I needed five really good musicians to pull it off,” he said.
The cast has really bonded throughout the show, and their chemistry shows.
“There’s a lot of really intricate dancing in this show, too,” he said. “Everybody stepped up to the plate.”
Lehman was joined by two local theater veterans to serve as the show’s musical director and choreographer.
“I really enjoyed working with the husband and wife duo, Joshua Landin and Gianna Landin,” he said.
The show is a shift of Lehman and the Linden Community Theatre team. In the past, they’ve done huge productions with intricate sets and large casts. “And the World Goes ‘Round” is much simpler, in part because it will be staged in the black box theatre at the Stockton School of Performing Arts.
Audience members will be very close to the cast as they perform, Lehman said.
“I always compare it to a jazz lounge, where people come for a drink and to listen to some music,” he said.
For the set, the theatre company built a set in miniature and filmed it. They’ll use a projector for the show.
“People haven’t seen anything like this in this area,” Lehman said.
The simplicity of the set will support the centerpiece of “And the World Goes ‘Round” — the music.
The songs of Kander and Epps will carry the performance, along with the talent of the performers. And there will be plenty of surprises even for the Broadway fans who think they know the duo’s music.
“There’s a moment, it’s called ‘The Trio,’ where Man 2, Woman 1 and Woman 3 ... are singing three completely different songs at the same time,” Lehman said.
They combine “We Can Make It” from “The Rink,” “Maybe This Time” from “Cabaret” and “Isn’t This Better?” from “Funny Lady,” and their timing has to be perfect.
“I can’t help but get chills. It gets overwhelming, a little,” Lehman said.