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High Society
a Musical Comedy
CATEGORY : MUSICAL
by Book: Arthur Kopit; Songs: Cole Porter

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 4332

SHOWING : July 13, 2012 - August 05, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Based on the MGM musical film of the same name and Philip Barry’s classic play, The Philadelphia Story, we meet the very wealthy Lord family as they plan the wedding of their daughter Tracy. Ex husbands, nosy reporters, too much champagne and a pesky little sister all threaten to ruin the happy day. Featuring such great Porter tunes like Well, Did You Evah, Let’s Misbehave, True Love and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Robert Egizio
Costume designer Jim Alford
Sound designer Dan Bauman
Lighting Designer Michael Magursky
Set designer Chuck Welcome
Music Director Linda Uzelac
Ensemble Caleigh Allen
Tracey Lord Rebecca Galen Crawley
Seth Lord George Deavours
Ensemble Trey Getz
George Kittredge Christopher Lewis
Margaret Lord Kathleen McCook
Ensemble Kelly Schmidt
Liz Imbrie Caitlin Smith
Dinah Lord Hope Valls
Mike Conner Jeremy Varner
Uncle Willie Robert Wayne
C.K. Dexter Haven Jeremy Wood
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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A Swell Party
by Dedalus
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
4.0
Have you heard? It�s on the stage �
�High Society� defies its age!
Will did you evah?
What a swell party this is!

I confess to being a big fan of �The Philadelphia Story,� Philip Barry�s 1939 play, which became a marvelous 1940 movie, which became a not-quite-as-marvelous 1956 movie musical called �High Society.� My fondness for the piece is best left unscrutinized � the characters are mostly wafer-thin screwball-comedy �types� � the spoiled heiress, the bratty sister, the stuffed shirt fiancé, the charming ex-husband, the lecherous uncle, the scruffy reporters, the working class �dame.� They are thrown into a plot that has them in the preparation throes of a high society wedding that seems doomed from the start.

Yet, I�ve always found the play eminently readable (if difficult to produce), the 1940 movie laugh-out-loud funny and charming (no matter how often I watch it), and the 1956 movie enjoyable in its own right (thanks more to the Cole Porter score than to the incredibly wrong-for-the-parts Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly).

So, it�s no surprise that when, in 1998, �High Society� was finally getting its play-to-screen-to-movie musical-to-Broadway musical adaptation (complete with a bevy of new (well, relatively obscure) Cole Porter songs), I had to rush to see it. I enjoyed it, but it was marred by an awful performance in the central role, and an unnecessarily dizzying array of scene changes and technical effects (Let�s not even mention that tacky and ugly three-cat poster). Still, one couldn�t walk away unamused by John McMartin�s marvelous Uncle Willy (listen to the original cast recording to see just how dirty he makes the line �Peek-a-Boo�), and the added songs are beautiful in that Cole Porter way � you can�t listen to the score without wishing you were tux�d up and martini�d down.

That brings us to Stage Door Player�s mounting of the 1998 version. Centered by a clever and adaptable unit set and an absolutely wonderful Galen Crawley in the central role of Tracy Lord, it is already miles ahead of the Broadway production. This production is smooth and elegant, well sung and (for the females) nicely acted. I waltzed out humming the songs, and still have to smother a smile when I recall many moments.

The only thing that brings this airy confection down to earth is a couple of adequate-but-little-more performances by some of the principal men.

First, though, let me recap the plot. Like the 1956 movie, the story has been moved from Philadelphia�s Main Line to �A Glorious Weekend in June 1938� on Oyster Bay, Long Island. There is a wedding in the works � beautiful heiress Tracy Lord (the aforementioned Ms. Crawley) is tying the knot with coal magnate George Kittredge (Christopher Lewis). NOT attending the festivities is Tracy�s father (George Devours), in hiding due to a scandal (and public) affair with a dancer who�s, um, �Got That Thing� (as explained in one of the new Porter songs). Just to complicate matters, Tracy�s ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Jeremy Wood) has come with a couple of reporters from a scandal magazine, Mike Connor (Jeremy Varner) and Liz Imbrie (Caitlin Smith). Also on hand to keep things lively are the bottom-pinching Uncle Willie (Robert Wayne) and Tracy�s sassy kid sister Dinah (the wonderfully sassy Hope Valls). Before long, everyone is pretending to be someone else, the gin and champagne are flowing like gin and champagne, and the lyrics to �Let�s Misbehave� are taken as commandments.

Keeping the action flowing smoothly (and the sets changing quickly) are a quartet of servants, played with panache by Caleigh Allen, Anthony Owen, Kelly Chapin Schmidt, and Trey Getz. Keeping the plot lighter than air are the ecstatically perfects songs of Cole Porter � both the familiar (�Who Wants to be a Millionaire?�, �Well, Did you Evah?�, �I Love Paris,� �Once Upon a Time,� �Little One,� �True Love,� and �Let�s Misbehave�) and the not-so-familiar (�She�s Got That Thing�, �I�m Getting Myself Ready For You,� �Say it With Gin�, and the lively opening �Throwing a Ball Tonight.�)

As I said before I really REALLY liked Ms. Crawley�s Tracy. She had just the right combination of elegant charm, just-spoiled-enough haughtiness, wry humor, and downright sexiness the role requires. No, she�s not Katherine Hepburn (who is?), but she has so much more than the cold and distant Grace Kelly gave the role, and she�s better by a Long Island Mile than Mellissa Errico, who played the role in 1998. I also liked Ms. Smith�s Liz Imbrie and Ms. Vall�s Dinah.

On the other hand, I found Mr. Wood�s Dexter a bit lifeless and bland. Yes, he sings beautifully and has the kind of good looks the role requires, but I found his performance, on the whole, �by-the-numbers� and not remotely up to the level he achieved in �Singin� in the Rain� a couple years back. True, his duet with Dinah (�Little One�) had none of the air of creepiness that Bing Crosby�s movie version had, but I was expecting (hoping for) more, well, more charm. By contrast, Mr. Lewis� Kittredge was all charmless bluster and nervous energy � the perfect foil for Tracy�s energetic embrace of fun and life (I also liked his yellow sweater with the black diamonds � a not-so-subtle nod to a certain round-headed comic strip lad).

I also found Mr. Varner�s Mike Connor equally vapid and substanceless. Seeming far too young for the role, he was (granted) swell of voice but not so swell of appeal. As to Mr. Wayne�s Uncle Willie, he had a number of nice moments, and seemed to be having a really good time, which more than made up for his not-as-filthy-as-I-wanted-it-to-be �Peek-a-Boo.�

Fortunately, this is Ms. Crawley�s production to make or break, and make it she does. If the men weren�t as memorable in their acting choices, they were more-than-equal to the music, and all of them nailed the songs, making it clear why Cole Porter is now and forever-after a master of sophisticated melody and wit. Director Robert Egizio and Scenic Designer Chuck Welcome have come up with a smart and clever unit set that holds all the many scenes and lets the quartet of servants blithely prepare the stage with nary a lagging moment. Music Director Linda Uzelac has accomplished the remarkable feat of coaching the cast to make Mr. Porter�s intricate lyrics flow as smoothly and elegantly as a dry martini (shaken or stirred), and Choreographer Jen MacQueen has created some steps that trip eagerly across the stage, as if these characters were born to dance.

After seeing this show, I stumbled home, intoxicated with delight, ready to �Mow the bubbly and pour the lawn.� A Swell Party, Indeed!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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The Social Event of the Season
by playgoer
Sunday, July 29, 2012
4.0
I admire Arthur Kopit's book for "High Society." It keeps the action moving and manages to mine a little emotion out of what could be a frothy little entertainment. The Cole Porter songs, though, don't help the book as much as they could or should. The songs from the original movie musical are mostly in place, but they've been augmented by songs from the Cole Porter songbook. A couple of well-known songs from "Can-Can" are used, along with more obscure and/or older tunes that don't necessarily show off Porter's particular talents.

"The Philadelphia Story" by Phillip Barry is the source material of the musical. The wealthy Lord family of Oyster Bay, Long Island, is preparing for the marriage of elder daughter Tracy to a dull social climber. A reporter and photographer from a scandal rag worm their way into the proceedings, aided by Tracy's first husband. There's a fair amount of tomfoolery and romantic entanglements, all of which work out at the end.

The scene is set (and scenery is set) by the four-member staff of the household. Caleigh Allen, Trey Getz, Kelly Chapin Schmidt, and Anthony Owen all have strong vocal and dance talents, which are put to good use by Jen MacQueen's choreography. The servants are a nice concept, but the concept lacks the vibrancy of Louis Armstrong's band, which sparked the film musical.

The Lord family fares well in this production too. Galen Crawley has the great acting skills needed for Tracy Lord, along with a powerful, true singing voice that comes across as more strident than it should. Younger sister Dinah is played by Hope Valls with a lot of energy, but without the necessary diction to make all her lines understood. A nicely understated George Deavours plays father Seth, with Kathleen McCook generally effective as mother Margaret. Robert Wayne does a nice job of keeping dirty old Uncle Willie from being distasteful, but the low vocal range of his songs doesn't seem to match his natural range, causing some volume problems.

The non-family members are more of a mixed bag. Christopher Lewis seems a bit young in terms of looks as Tracy's fiance, but has a tremendous voice that is put to great use in his solo ("I Worship You"), and his acting hits all the right notes. Jeremy Varner, as writer Mike Connor, has a pleasing voice, but his acting skills aren't up to the complexity of his character. His line readings were sometimes dull, and he seemed expressionless in comparison to the rest of the cast. Caitlin Smith, cast opposite him as photographer Liz Imbrie, blew him off the stage with her powerful, effortless performance, highlighted by delightful line readings and a terrific voice. Jeremy Wood, as Tracy's first husband, Dexter, was also a strong presence, giving a nicely nuanced and beautifully sung performance.

Neither Ms. Smith nor Mr. Wood were given much musical support in their big act two solos ("He's a Right Guy" and "Just One of Those Things"). The arrangements were dull, with the flute accompaniment in particular underlining the unimaginative orchestration. Linda Uzelac isn't as successful in her musical direction of this show as she usually is, due largely to the lack of musical personality in the score.

The technical aspects of the show are generally good, although the wigs look wiggy and the costumes (with design by Jim Alford) seem to be remarkably ill-fitting in several cases, when the rich Lord family would have elegantly tailored clothing. Michael W. Magursky's lighting is above par, with some very nice water and forest effects, and Chuck Welcome's scenic design is its usual marvel of beauty and economy.

Robert Egizio's direction keeps the show flowing, but he certainly could have done more to limit the shortcomings of the production. He has, however, coaxed wonderful performances out of Galen Crawley, Jeremy Wood, and Caitlin Smith and has provided a stylish finish to Stage Door Players' 2011-2012 season.
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