Cole Porter is defined by the brilliant music he wrote for stage and screen productions like Kiss Me Kate, Can-Can, Born to Dance and High Society and dozens more. But there was more to the man than his fabulous music. Porter lived with great style and charm as a (semi-)closeted gay artist in the pre-Stonewall era – which influenced his work and his relationships, including close friendships with playwright/actor Noel Coward and actor/director Monty Woolley.
Living in the shadow of Oscar Wilde’s martyrdom, Porter’s circle functioned in the heroic vanguard of artists who learned to adapt and thrive. Monty Woolley is most famous now for creating the role of Sheridan Whiteside in Kaufman and Hart’s hit comedy “The Man Who Came to Dinner” but before that he was known primarily as Cole Porter’s best friend from school days onward. Woolley directed several of Cole’s first hit shows and personally introduced several of Cole’s party songs to the Smart Set. To the cognoscenti Woolley and Porter were notorious for their openly gay lives, bachelor Woolley being more open than conventionally married Porter. But, when people played the “who’s gay” in the “who’s who” game in the mid-20th Century they were always at the top of everyone’s list. The story of how the two accommodated this fact in their creative lives is historically noteworthy and touching.
Now, Chicago performer Daniel Johnson has produced a must-see one-man show all about the history of Cole Porter’s inner circle. Featuring classic Porter song-favorites like “Let’s Misbehave” and “At Long Last Love” to rarities like “If I Were Only a Football King,” and “Kling-Kling Bird in the Divi-divi Tree, ” Wilde and Woolley is a poignant and amusing show that celebrates the men behind the music we all know and love.
Rehearsals are on-going for the new and improved version of the already very well received “Wilde and Woolley.” We hope you will join us Sat. June 11 to celebrate this Pride Month edition.