On the other hand, when Kander and Ebb strike gold, it pays off for great singers, as in the case of Sheryl McCallum's powerhouse rendition of "Maybe This Time" from Cabaret. Likewise delightful, although in a completely different way, is "The Grass Is Always Greener" from Woman of the Year. Meant to be sung by two women -- old friends who meet years after one has become a celebrity -- and performed by McCallum and Alice M. Vienneau, "Grass" has more flavor than all four songs included here from The Rink put together. Seeing how well it worked, I wished that Hall, whose directorial touch is almost too light-handed, had taken some of the clunkers out or tried to juice up the low-energy segments.

The women in the Caldwell cast shine the brightest, at least during the first weekend of the run. Troupers John Hoshko and Brad Drummer sing wonderfully, but they're not the voices that will follow you home. Rather, South Florida musical theater favorite Laurie Gamache brings her own indomitable personality to Liza Minnelli's "Arthur in the Afternoon." Her colleague Sheryl McCallum is regrettably underused, and so the heart and soul of the show is the effervescent Alice M. Vienneau. In Vienneau's best moments, she tosses Judy Holliday-esque verve into "Ring Them Bells," a song about a woman "who travels around the world to meet the boy next door." Like her female cohorts, she well knows how to make the world go 'round.

The World Goes 'Round. Conceived by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman, and David Thompson, with the music and lyrics of John Kander and Fred Ebb. Directed by Michael Hall. Musical direction by Ken Clifton. Choreography by Lynette Barkley. Starring Sheryl McCallum, Laurie Gamache, Alice M. Vienneau, John Hoshko, and Brad Drummer, and musicians Vincent Trovato, Rupert Ziawinski, and Jean J. Bolduc. Through December 20. Caldwell Theatre Company, 7873 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton, toll-free 930-6400.

Stage Whispers
Last week's appearance by Culture Clash at the Miami Book Fair International provoked urgent thoughts. Their reading/book promotion of their collected scripts was one of the freshest performance events I've seen this year -- and not just because of the intelligence and dexterity of their stagecraft. The presentation by the Los Angeles-based group featured excerpts from Radio Mambo: Culture Clash Invades Miami, the 1994 performance piece culled from interviews with dozens of South Floridians and commenting on our explosive cultural and political landscape. Staleness has not set in. Nor has anyone come along since to make compelling theater out of the South Florida experience.

Since debuting in Miami, the show has traveled to New York, the West Coast, and places in between. From the Wolfson Auditorium stage, however, the group expressed a desire to return here. South Florida theater groups and presenters should do one of two things: Either create theater that matches the power of Culture Clash or bring these guys back pronto. Better yet, do both.

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