Bucks Country Playhouse Returns with a Super Ambitious Season 

The World Goes ‘Round


By Joel Benjamin



For decades it was a major stop on what was affectionately dubbed the summer Straw Hat Circuit.  Now the Bucks Country Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania has been revitalized by the efforts of many, but most particularly the local Bridge Street Foundation and its producing director, Jed Bernstein, a Broadway stalwart.

The Summer 2013 season began in May with Mame starring Andrea McArdle and went on to a world premiere of a play by Tony Award winning writer Terrence McNally, Mothers and Sons, starring Tony and Emmy Award winner Tyne Daly.  This July there was a family musical, Really Rosie with music by Carole King and books and lyrics by the late, great Maurice Sendak.  Alternating with Really Rosie was a wonderful revival of the hit Kander and Ebb musical revue, The World Goes ‘Round, directed by theater veteran Don Stephenson, starring five incredible singing, dancing actors.

I caught this production on a blistering hot day.  Don’t dismay.  The theater is beautifully air conditioned, parking is on site and lovely, cool refreshments are available right there, too (not to mention the charming town of New Hope just a few steps away!).

This The World Goes ‘Round took a slightly darker view of the very sophisticated songs of John Kander and Fred Ebb than the original, bare bones off-Broadway production, beginning with an off-kilter set—designed by Narelle Sissons—consisting of the facades of New York apartment houses, tilted so that the stage, itself, began to look like a slightly dangerous place to be.

The Kander & Ebb songs in The World Goes ‘Round all derive from their Broadway and film work, mostly written for specific personalities like Liza Minnelli, Chita Rivera and Lauren Bacall.  It was easy to mentally relinquish images of these stars as these five talented performers went through their carefully choreographed paces.  The show alternated humorous bits with torchy and world-weary songs.  The title song was used to book-end the show, like an existential philosophical statement.   The sadness of lost love was illuminated by “I Don’t Remember You” (sung by Tom Hewitt), “Sometimes a Day Goes By” (sung by David Josefsberg) and “Maybe This Time” (sung by Janine DiVita), all showing different facets of loss.  “A Quiet Thing” (sung by Michelle Aravena) is that rare song about how life can have gentle revelations.  “Isn’t this Better” (sung by Emily Skinner) is a clear-eyed—if self-deluding—view of a comfortable, non-passionate relationship.

The comic bits ranged from the frenetic comment on the warp-speed of modern life, “Coffee In a Cardboard Cup” to the hilarious story of a “Noo Yawk” girl going half-way around the world to meet the man next door in “Ring Them Bells.”  The cast displayed some awkward roller skating in “The Rink” and old-fashioned vaudeville shtick in “Money, Money,” but took the ubiquitous “Cabaret” to new heights in a jazzy, close-harmony setting that was a genuine re-thinking of the meaning(s) of the song.

All five cast members contributed singly and as an ensemble to make the evening a charmer.  Emily Skinner, a Tony nominee with a long stage resume, provided a robust, wide-eyed freshness to her numbers, most particularly her duet with Janine DiVita, “The Grass Is Always Greener” (with an obvious subject matter) in which she was the less glamorous of the pair.   Ms. DiVita strode the stage with power and sang “Only Love” with a simmering passion.    Michelle Aravena’s “A Quiet Thing” showed her acting chops.  She took this audition favorite and found new accents and a fresh physicality.  David Josefsberg went easily from the comic  (“Mr. Cellophane,” a self-effacing number for which he was, perhaps, too young) to the rueful (“Sometimes a Day Goes By”) to which he added his youthful urgency.  Tom Hewitt, recently on Broadway in Jesus Christ, Superstar, has a mature, sexy presence which he used with ease in the seething “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”  They all seemed to enjoy working with each other on the goofy group numbers like “Coffee In a Cardboard Cup” and the sexy “Arthur in the Afternoon.”

The Bucks County Playhouse season runs into September and includes a new musical Summer of ’42 (now through August 11th) and Charles Busch’s sophisticate comedy of urban angst, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife (August 15th to September 1st).   It’s worth a daytrip, leaving time to explore New Hope and Lambertville across the Delaware River in New Jersey.


Bucks County Playhouse

70 South Main St.

New Hope, PA

Tickets and Information:  215-862-2121 or