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Archive for the tag “Davenports”

Up next: Wilde and Woolley

Up next is a Gay Pride edition of Wilde and Woolley: a new and improved exploration of Cole Porter’s inner circle at 8:00 pm on Saturday, June 11, 2016 Davenport’s Cabaret.  When the show debuted at Dav’s last fall it was very well received.  Patrons loved the Cole Porter songs and lore, but were also very impressed with the story-telling.

So we were delighted to be asked back.  We’ve made some improvements in the show and it will also again feature the music direction, accompaniment and vocals by the multi-talented Philip Seward.

Not just a tribute to the creative resilience of two famed pre-Stonewall gay icons, it spells out the varying effect that the closet had on Cole Porter and Monty Woolley, told cabaret style with an enchanting mixture of song:  familiar standards and unique rarities by Porter and his contemporaries.

Whiteside_plots

When Daniel researched the role of Sheridan Whiteside in “The Man Who Came to Dinner” (one of his favorite theater experiences) he discovered that there was a story to tell about Cole and Monty’s friendship that was not only touching and historic but very worth knowing about and one that moved him personally.

Please join us at Davenport’s for this special Pride event.

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Wilde and Woolley Date Set

Save the date, October 15, 2015!  If you wish you knew Cole Porter, you’ll love the show I’m working on.

Cole Porter stamp The creative heritage of Cole Porter is woven into the fabric of our lives.  Tunes and images resonate through film scores and television commercials not to mention jazz clubs and pop concerts.  We know him from “Night and Day,” “Begin the Beguine” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and from the shows Anything Goes, Can-Can and Kiss Me Kate.

In my own acting career I have been privileged to play supporting roles in revivals of three of his shows and the experiences were among my most memorable, especially playing the comic lead in the 1988 revival of Leave It To Me off-Broadway in NYC.  My special take as a singing actor on Porter’s music is from the point of view of the character actor Monty Woolley, Cole’s best friend and frequent collaborator who held a storied place in Cole’s inner circle.

monty-wooleyMany of Porter’s most amusing and intriguing creations were written primarily to the taste of Woolley and his other intimate friends.  I identify closely with Monty Woolley’s biography and find the story of his relationship to Cole Porter to be fascinating.  That is the story I will tell in Wilde and Woolley, my new cabaret show.

I hope that you will find it entertaining too.  Please save the date:  October 15, 2015 at Davenport’s in Chicago.

Davenport’s Debut

Last night I made my Davenport’s debut.

For those who are not familiar with Chicago Cabaret, Davenport’s is a prime venue which happens to be the “home-bar” of the Chicago Cabaret Professionals. The program went very well and I thought I was well received. I performed a set chosen to introduce my work to the community answering the many questions I’ve had as to when they’d be hearing me sing.

I did my opening number from Boy Meets Boy the sophisticated and witty “Me” by Bill Solly, followed by a special interpretation of “Please Don’t Make Me Be Good” by Cole Porter and finished with “Poisoning Pigeons” by Tom Lehrer which David thinks (and I agree) kind of nails my Monty Woolley image. It gave me a chance to allude to my plans for Wilde and Woolley and let those in doubt know where I’m coming from!

Many of my fellow CCPers and SongShoppers attended as well as my spouse, David, and voice teacher, Matthew. It was an honor to be chosen for this prestigious showcase and a great pleasure to work with Nick Sula who was our music director and splendid accompanist.

I heard several supportive comments about my planned Wilde and Woolley project and people wanted to know when they will see it! I guess that means I’m committed. Let’s hope that Davenport’s will be interested in hosting it. David thinks it’s the right project for next steps with CCP.

There are several other irons in the fire however and I’ll be making my way through a number of options for next steps in general. I’m working toward an open mic night later in May, but am not fixed yet on what to perform.

Meanwhile I’ll just bask in the after-glow of an excellent Davenports – CCP Strut Your Stuff debut.

Under My Skin

I’m delighted to observe that Chicago audiences seem, like me, to have the works of Cole Porter “Under their Skin”. My friend Colin Douglas wrote about Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre’s A Cole Porter Songbook that “this energetic young company gives audiences their money’s worth in every way. This show, this cast is, quite simply, the top!”

I plan to see this production in August now that it has been extended until September 1st. I’m excited to see a young, popular cabaret theater celebrate my favorite composer. Meanwhile I have been attending other Porter feasts: Joan Curto brought her Cole Porter: from Major to Minor to Davenports, and I checked it out. I was thrilled to hear her sing “Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love” from Leave It to Me. I played the comic lead in a revival of that show at Equity Library Theater in NYC. It has such a rich score and great character parts, the original starred Victor Moore and William Gaxton, Sophie Tucker and a very young Mary Martin.

Then last Wednesday I travelled to the Oil Lamp Theater in Glenview, IL to see The Many Loves of Cole Porter performed by Bob Moreen. Bob is a stalwart in Chicago Cabaret as a performer and music director. He guided the very successful Noel Coward show starring Suzanne Petri & Co. which I admired. His suave and intelligent interpretation of the Porter material was spot-on for those of us who like nothing more than to wax nostalgic about Cole’s love life (in song) and impish creativity. This show will repeat on September 18 and I recommend it.

So why do Cole Porter’s works have so much juice outside the theatre? There have been several successful revues, such as, Cole, A Musical Revue, and Red, Hot and Cole, and others like the above mentioned “Songbook”. One answer may be that Mr. Porter spent many years in a self-imposed exile from Broadway where he amused himself and his friends by singing solo party songs which he wrote for himself. He acquired a very sure sense of what his crowd expected from him and what would amuse them. He brought this well-honed sensibility to his book shows when he finally returned to the fold of Broadway theatre.

Another thought is that he had a wonderful satirical bent. Like the Gershwins he was influenced by Gilbert and Sullivan who brought satire into operetta for English and American audiences. He enjoyed poking fun at select targets in ways that were far more sophisticated than the low-brow humor prevalent in other musical entertainments. It seems to me that he was a great writer of comedy as well as romance.

I also think that Cole Porter’s songs stand on their own so well because he was one of a handful of composers who wrote their own lyrics. So he was collaborating (musically) with himself, which may have resulted in creations that were purer in intent and execution. And he was certainly prolific. If a book song didn’t work, he just wrote others until one did work. Tried and true.

And of course his songs were always theatrical. Even if they were written as specialties for himself or others they were theatre songs, because he was a troubadour, he lived to entertain.

For me, whether the weather is cold or whether the weather is hot, it’s always a season for Cole Porter.

My Big Cabaret Weekend

An important part of my quest for a niche in cabaret is observing the scene in Chicagoland and enjoying what it has to offer. Recently I had an opportunity to see three extra-ordinary events that gave me better perspective.

Suzanne Petri in ‘A Little Touch of Coward in the Night’ debuted at Davenports last weekend and I was there. Suzanne Petri appeared in a new Noel Coward tribute with special guest John Eskola (with his delightful tenor and graceful wit) along with pianist (and musical director) Bob Moreen with his debonair vocals and keyboard aplomb. The event was narrated by Bob Breuler who also directed and plays short scenes with Ms. Petri (his spouse). This group represents the quintessential “old guard” of Chicago cabaret. Only a group of renowned performers would venture such a refined program. It was a delight for everyone (like me) who adores ‘the Master’ masterfully performed.

But to expect that a Coward program would have commercial viability in this day and age is, well, audacious. It is also a testament to the worthy skills involved. Certainly each of these performers brings a noteworthy reputation and following for past achievements. And this is one of the purposes of the cabaret where special material can find resonance in an intimate setting in a refined milieu.

Petri is one of the founders of Chicago Cabaret Professionals and its longtime leader and former President. She is also a Jeff Award nominated actress. Past cabaret specialties includes a tribute to Marlene Dietrich. She brings a unique and winning personality to material that Coward wrote for him-self and leading ladies like Gertrude Lawrence and Lynn Fontaine. I was particularly delighted with Ms. Petri’s rendition of a song written for Bea Lillie, another Coward cohort. An evening of Bea Lillie, while it might have tickled me, would have been too much for which to ask. In this delightful cabaret performance Petri showed great range and depth and with the able support of her collaborators brought Noel Coward back to the 2013 cabaret scene where, many times in his life, he found such a natural home.

My take away from this event was: if you’re going to do unique and challenging material you had better already have a following, and it doesn’t hurt to be identified as a performer of range, wit and charm. That all takes time and for Suzanne Petri the best of times is now.

More to come on the rest of my big cabaret weekend.

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