By Marlene S. Gaylinn
Cole Porter fans can hear his life's story and enjoy his catchy and romantic songs performed by a talented cast of singing actors at Music Theatre of CT (MTC). It’s evident that the show's devisors, Benny Green and Alan Strachan, plus MTC director, Kevin Connors, did extensive homework as songsters Blair Brown, Kathy Calahan, Philip Chafin and Eric Kincaid relate the fascinating background of each song in chronological order. The team's combination results in interesting material and fine entertainment.
Dug up are some of Porter’s earlier, less familiar works -- a football fight jingle called “Bingo...” written when he attended Yale, and his first musical flop after attending Harvard, “See America First” -- which presented by the lively, Kathy Calahan reminds us of the ancient, TV commercial, “See the U. S. A. in your Chevrolet.” An anecdote related to his very successful show, “Anything Goes,” is that Porter felt Ethel Merman’s rich voice sounded like “...a whole band.” In appreciation, he gave her a painting of a chicken, which the singer did not appreciate because she gave it away claiming that it did not fit her decor. The funny thing was, years later, when it was discovered that the artist was Grandma Moses, Merman had second thoughts about the painting but couldn’t remember to whom she gave it -- which probably says something about values.
In contrast to the vibrant Calahan, Blair Brown was well suited to Porter’s more romantic songs. But unfortunately, although the theatre is quite intimate, her voice did not carry across as expected. Perhaps she wasn’t wired for sound as sections of her emotional “In the Still of the Night” seemed to be drowned out by David Wolfson’s brilliant piano phrases.
There were no problems with the male singers and their strong, fine voices. Philip Chaffin, in a white cowboy hat and looking like JR in TV’s “Dallas,” represented a typically tall, handsome, American in Paris as he sang “I Love Paris in the Springtime.” Eric Kincaid, who played the Emcee in MTC’s award-winning “Cabaret,” amusingly matched Chaffin’s height by wearing a taller high hat and showing off his dancing ability in the lighter, musical numbers. In all, “Cole” is a short (one act), very pleasant escape from our troubled times.
Plays to May 12