"I've Got The World On A String: Harold Arlen's Songs of Love and Loss" Review - City Lit's premiere musical revue

City Lit Theatre Company, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, is currently staging “I’ve Got The World On a String: Harold Arlen’s Songs of Love and Loss”, through April 10th. This world premiere musical review was devised by Sheldon Patinkin  and completed after his death by artistic director Terry McCabe and pianist / arranger Kingsley Day, close friends and collaborators of Patinkin’s. The piece features period choreography by Brigitte Ditmars, lighting design by Kurt Ottinger, set design by Ray Toler, and costumes by Thomas K. Keiffer.  Directed by Terry McCabe, with music directed by Kingsley Day, who tickled the ivories with seductive flair during the performance as well, the 80 minute show features 23 great Harold Arlen songs, including a  heart-warming medley from “The Wizard of Oz”, “Stormy Weather”, “That Old Black Magic”, and an adorable version of "Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive".

Rachel Klippel,Chris Logan, Varris Holmes, Jennifer T. Grubb, Jameson Wentworth, Harmony France, and Kingsley Day

The scene is Joe’s Bar in Manhattan, summertime in the middle of the 1940’s.There are three men, three women, and a piano player. For one night, the first act, despite how some of them string some of the other’s along, they’ve got the world on a string, and are briefly high as kites. There is no dialogue, no conversation, no speaking parts at all, just a plot consisting of couples switching back and forth, loosely referred to in the words of the mellow old songs. By the second night, and the second act, we’ve also seen a lot of scowls, frowns, and attempts at staring daggers leveled by the jealous former lovers at the tentative newly conjoined couples.  But not to worry! The couples right themselves before the action ends.

Varris Holmes and Jennifer T. Grubb

If this revue were any longer, or the song and dance one whit less clever, the cast could not pull off the program- but they do. Ultimately, the simplicity of the plot gives over to the charm of the music, very elegantly played by Day, and the sincerity of the performers.  Skilled crooners and hoofers all, they include Harmony France, Rachel Klippel, Jennifer T. Grubb, Chris Logan, Jameson Wentworth and Varris Holmes, performing in groups, solo, and duets.The costumes were spot-on, dapper for the men, dowdy but clingy for the girls, and the stage-set of the bar, especially considering it's set in an actual neighborhood church, is very special, with subtle lighting as well. Where did they get all the real old-time beer signs?

Rachel Klippel,Kingsley Day, and Chris Logan

Harold Arlen’s career spanned some 50 years, and included collaboration with lyricists Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin and Billy Rose- there’s a reason why they’re called “old standards”- they will carry you back to your own days of love and loss.This is a pleasant show, with music that will take you back to the times and voices of great singers like Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra- you should hear the soulful rendition of “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)"!

Harmony France


Information on this and upcoming shows at CityLit


All photos courtesy of Tom McGrath



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