Tuesday 8 May 2012

Fizz-&-froth-&-fancy dress -- and Cole Porter

In ACT's promotion for High Society that opens Thursday, local arts editor and podcaster Daniel Ralston ends an insightful 9-paragraph history of the original movie The Philadelphia Story and the musical re-mount of 1956 with this comment on the seduction of theatre nostalgia : "High Society invites its audiences to compare an imagined past and an all-too-real present."

With 18 songs by Cole Porter set in Gatsby-era Eastern Seaboard mansions, this ain't Coors and cotton candy country. We are promised petit fours for one silk glove and French bubbly for the other, without the Scott Fitzgerald existential angst underpinning it all.

Anyone who marveled at the top-10 film of 1956 starring Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong will easily be teased into watching their celluloid antics translated to stage business.  Director Bill Millerd and cast will surely try to please 2012 sensibilities in the rich confines of the Stanley.

The plot is pure froth and nonsense : about a rich and spoiled naif on the eve of her second wedding. She pirouettes and giggles and suffers(!) the competing attentions of her fiance, her ex-husband, and a gossip-rag reporter throughout a night of incandescent partying.  Come dawn one almost hears Scarlett whinging to Rhett : "Where shall I go ? What shall I do ?"

Still, let's compare.  We live in an epoch of rap and worse; The Baconator; Steve, Obie and Mitt; the Eurodrone; Al Qaeda semtex underwear; Quebecois youth rioting over dollar-a-day university fee hikes -- in such a world as this maybe the fizz and fuzz and silly goings-on by a bunch of USA nouveau riche from the post-WW II boom years is just right. What other Rx for the 2012 neuralgia and dyspepsia we suffer -- only Timothy Leary's Turn on, tune in, drop out ! it seems.

To borrow from Daniel Ralston again : "A blend of nostalgic film associations, catchy Porter scoring, and the allure of the carefree 1950's [might be] the perfect cocktail."


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