Though most, and certainly the best, of them date from the 1960s and 70s, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s songs remain models of high-quality craftsmanship, miniature comedy dramas that reveal character and story by deftly balancing tune, text, and subtext. In this off-Broadway revue imaginatively conceived by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman, and David Thompson, offbeat versions of familiar hits–a coolly harmonized, Manhattan Transfer-style “Cabaret” and a cheekily multi-lingual “New York, New York,” for instance–are juxtaposed with less-exposed numbers whose musical grace, nimble rhymes, and quirky colloquiality make them ripe for new interpretation. Highlights include “Arthur in the Afternoon,” a sly, sassy ode to midday adultery from The Act, “Mr. Cellophane,” an invisible man’s apologetic rag from Chicago; an achingly lovely love-song medley that includes Kander and Ebb’s first hit, “My Coloring Book”; a crutch-wielding chorus’s ode to the sufferings of hoofers, “Pain”; a sweetly tentative courtship sequence that pairs The Rink’s “Marry Me” with Flora, the Red Menace’s “Quiet Thing”; and “The Grass Is Always Greener,” a show-stopping comic duet between a movie star and a housewife from Woman of the Year. Ellis’s inventive staging, Stroman’s taut, sexy choreography, and David Loud’s clever musical arrangements are superbly served by Marin Mazzie, Shelley Dickinson, Valerie Wright, Joel Blum, and John Ruess, a dynamic triple-threat quintet who dance, sing, and act with great skill, sensitivity, and clarity of intention. Especially in contrast to the banal contrivances of Marvin Hamlisch and David Zippel’s score for The Goodbye Girl, its predecessor at the Shubert, The World Goes ‘Round is enormously satisfying entertainment. Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe, 902-1500. Through February 21: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 PM; Wednesdays, 2 and 7:30 PM; Fridays, 8 PM; Saturdays, 2 and 8 PM; Sundays, 3 PM. $12-$35.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Joan Marcus.