Cole: The Songs of Cole Porter | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Cole: The Songs of Cole Porter 

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COLE: THE SONGS OF COLE PORTER, Prologue Theatre Productions, at the Theatre Building. Cole Porter's songs can't be revived because they never died: his effortlessly witty lyrics and sumptuous melodies create new believers whenever they're sung. A supple revue like this chronological thematic collection only needs the right performers to let "Night and Day" and "What Is This Thing Called Love" work their magic.

Benny Green and Alan Stachan have discovered the right balance between bright and dark songs and between Porter standards ("Another Op'nin, Another Show") and discoveries like his 1902 "Bobolink Waltz." The categories--"Paris," "love," "New York"--offer sly connections, and the narrative provides witty links, though there's nary a hint of Porter's homosexuality in the running bio.

Prologue's production is not a strong introduction for the uninitiated, however. The uneven performances in Allan Chambers's staging are plagued by problems with pitch and projection. (It's always a shame when miking actually seems a solution.) The best moments come when the show's four women, bebopping merrily to Jennifer Roses's choreography, hurl themselves into the harmony of "Leader of the Big Time Band" and "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love," and when the men reinvent the vaudevillian silliness of "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." Then the sheer youth of this unfledged cast unleashes the energy of every bar. Worst in this production is the ugly set, which resembles a Roosevelt Road viaduct and never suggests the Art Deco sheen of Porter's sophisticated delights.

--Lawrence Bommer

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