“If Cole Porter hadn’t existed, F. Scott Fitzgerald would have had to make him up.” Impresario Scott Siegel briefly introduces each song as he has for years at his venerable Broadway by the Year® series. Though a Yalie, Porter “got his real education in Paris where he majored in music and minored in partying. Success didn’t come early or easy. Then in 1934, in the middle of The Great Depression, he wrote Anything Goes.“
Emily Larger and Danny Gardner duet a vaudevillian presentation of “You’re the Top,” pulling props from a couple of costume trunks, draping each other. Staging is over complicated and distracting – as is Larger’s outfit. Acting, however is spot on. Larger and her lovely, bright contralto radiate warmth. Gardner’s expression, dancing, and choreography are top notch. Tapping is fun.
Gardner returns for “Night and Day” from 1932’s The Gay Divorce. Its scenario begins in contemporary color as he looks at phone photos of his offstage girlfriend, Emily Larger, then transitions to black and white with the artist wearing tails. Even within the limits of a very small space, movement is graceful and romantic with and without his conjured partner. A turn on the windowsill is especially appealing. He’s palpably besotted.
“Porter loved his wife Linda very much, but as a homosexual, also loved a number of men. He wrote about love with great feeling.” Kenita R. Miller delivers two excellent, well directed performances. A beautifully phrased, melancholy “What Is This Thing Called Love?” fogs up a window with her sighs, sustaining its evocative mood even during the instrumental. In“Just One of Those Things,” she seamlessly morphs from nostalgia to dismissal. Again, phrasing is terrific replete with hums and pauses. Hers is a voice that unfurls like satin ribbon.
“Despite having his legs crushed in a tragic 1937 riding accident, Porter continued to work. He had only intermittent success, however, until Kiss Me Kate, the first musical to win a Tony Award for Best Musical.” Alexander Gemignani veritably inhabits Petruchio/Fred Graham in “Where Is the Life That Late I Lead?” His opulent baritone, crisp enunciation, deadpan droll, and manifestation of overblown ego are an unquestionable bull’s-eye. Later the artist returns with “So In Love.” Not only does he convey heartsickness, but also humility and surprise. Bravo.
“The songwriter was a daring lyricist… even describing prostitution, sex, and lynching.” Lilli Cooper offers a rendition of “I Get a Kick Out of You” out of sync with accompaniment, seemingly reading lyrics, and unaware of what she’s singing. Why would anyone pridefully smile on, “You obviously don’t adore me?” Her second number is a version of “Miss Otis Regrets” interpreted as a ballad without a hint of dark underbelly or bite, not even on the word “madam,” often employed to achieve just that.
The usually reliable Nicole Henry has been misdirected to perform“It’s All Right with Me” (Can Can), as if to herself in the mirror which makes no sense. The arrangement is so fast, it not only runs ahead of her vocal but ignores lyric intent. She looks as ill at ease as she sounds.
A mixed bag evening, some great, some disappointing.
Broadway by the Year®:The Cole Porter Years – On Demand
Presented by The Town Hall
Created, Written, and Hosted by Scott Siegel
Pianist and musical director Ross Patterson.
Video Editor JT Doran
Photo Courtesy of Broadway by the Year
Each video concert, recorded live, is approximately 9-10 songs in length, performed by four stars plus at least one additional dance number starring and choreographed by Danny Gardner. When you purchase your ticket, an email is sent with a viewing link.
Monday-Wednesday May 10-12: THE KANDER & EBB YEARS will feature songs from such shows as Flora, The Red Menace, Chicago, and Cabaret. Cast includes Danny Gardner, Ute Lemper, Tony Yazbeck, Beth Leavel and Natascia Diaz.
Monday-Wednesday May 24-26: THE SIR ANDREW LLOYD WEBER YEARS will feature songs from such shows as Song & Dance, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sunset Blvd., Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, Aspects of Love and Cats. Cast includes Liz Callaway, Ethan Slater, Max Von Essen, Ali Ewoldt, Emily Larger, Danny Gardner and more!
Broadway by the Year® is proudly supported by Bank of America. Additional support provided by The Edythe Kenner Foundation.