Hot n’ Cole

By Rosalind Friedman

At the Westport Country Playhouse, a pleasantly gifted ensemble is singing the witty songs of Cole Porter, directed seamlessly by the very smooth James Naughton, and accompanied by music director, a wonderful pianist Mark Berman, and his talented cohort, Steven F, Silverstein. Choreographer Lisa Shriver does a good job working the six -member cast around the two grand pianos. As the Gershwin brothers, George and Ira, wrote, “Who Could Ask for Anything More?” Hot n’ Cole, A Cole Porter Celebration, is really a perfect entertainment for a rainy summer evening, so Joanne Woodward charmingly put it. And I am sure this revue will do quite well on a sunny day, as well.

Andrea Dora, Lewis Cleale.
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

David Armstrong, Mark Waldrop & Bruce W. Coyle have devised Hot n’ Cole, sensitively weaving 30 of Porter’s marvelous high society, ironic love songs together to create a well-constructed show. On a chic silver and black set with the New York skyline in the background, designed by Hugh Landwehr and lit by Clifton Taylor, three men and three women sipping champagne tell of love lost, love found, love for show biz and love for Manhattan. Donna Lynne Champlin and Lewis Cleale best display the laid back, nonchalant attitude necessary for Porter’s songs, while Peter Reardon is endearingly steady in solos like “Broth of A Boy,” with which I wasn’t familiar, and the classic, “Miss Otis Regrets,” the number in which the butler informs that Miss Otis won’t be coming to lunch today—she’s shot her lover.

Shonn Wiley, who appears much younger than the rest of the group, is obviously the dancer, and graceful as a gazelle can be on the awkward layers of steps that line the apron of the stage. Quite convincing in “I’m A Gigolo,” he’s paired in a couple of numbers with Whitney Bashor; pretty and blond, this actress, also a dancer, tends to hit some sharp notes in her upper range. Lastly, there is Andrea Dora, who is dynamic in “I’ve Still Got My Health,” and in duets with Lewis: “Let’s Do it/Let’s Not Talk About love,” and “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To.” Group numbers, sporting mellifluous harmonies, were particularly effective. “It’s De-Lovely,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “In the Still of the Night,” “Another Openin’. Another Show,” “Too Darn Hot,” “Just One of Those Things,” and “You’re the Top.” These are all terrific songs, none of which are equaled in the new musicals that are being written today. Peter and Donna Lynne do a beautiful rendition of “From This Moment On.”

The only flaw in this Cole Porter celebration is the costumes (Laurie Churba Kohn). To reflect the elegance of the time, the men should be wearing white tie and tails or some version of the same. Instead they are in business suits –although worse- Shonn is in an ill-fitting jacket, jeans and white shoes—a no-no in any case! The women should be in period cocktail dresses – they are in style again- but are dressed poorly. Donna Lynne, in slacks and a blouse, looks like she is wearing rehearsal clothes. (It also would be nice to know from what shows the songs emanated.)

Hot n’ Cole—a felicitous, intimate revue, will play through June 28 at the Westport Country Playhouse.

(This review originally aired on WMFR Fine Arts radio)

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