Theo Ubique’s A COLE PORTER SONGBOOK Is Too Darn Hot!!
Reviewed By: RUSSELL GOELTENBODT
Chicago’s Theo Ubique Cabaret Theater production of “A Cole Porter Songbook” at Rogers Park’s No Exit Theater creates another night of beautiful music, great, dancing, romance and an enjoyable time of music and theater.
The No Exit Theater’s space is a perfect venue for “A Cole Porter Songbook”. This venue truly “The Jewel” of Rogers Park, has created many Jeff award winning productions, which will undoubtedly earn many more in the future. The theater’s intimate setting and cabaret seating transports you to the 1930’s where Cole Porter was at the peak of composing some of the greatest music in his career. This wonderful space is a perfect place for this type of musical revue; the audience is up close to the performers where they invite you into each great song. The audience is able to be a part of the show interacting with the performers where they experience an engaging up close personal relationship with the cast which becomes part of the production. The audience loves it! The singers made excellent use of the space which made this production visually attractive and made it work. In seeing some other musical theater pieces at the No Exit Theater, I really believe that musical reviews such as “A Cole Porter Songbook”, “Smokey Joe’s Café”, and “Pump Boys and Dinettes” seem to work much better than a huge musical theater production. This was especially true with the Theo Ubique Cabaret Theater production of “Aspects of Love”. Even though, “Aspects of Love”was an excellent production, it was little too big of a production for the No Exit Theater. Musical revues such as “A Cole Porter Songbook” work so much better in this intimate space. By their reaction, I believe the audience strongly agrees. I am also very happy to report that Director; Fred Anzevino found a much better spot for the orchestra where it isn’t in the center of the audience. The musical blend works so much better, and the musicians are not sitting with the audience, making it difficult to hear the performers. Great solution Fred!
The interesting story of the life of Cole Porter is told through his beautiful music in “A Cole Porter Songbook”. Cole Porter born in Peru, Indiana in 1891, did not have a hit until he was 37 years old. Cole Porter became one of Broadway’s top songwriters between the 1920s-and 1950s with his scores of musicals including “Anything Goes”, “Kiss Me Kate”, and “Can Can”. Additionally, Cole Porter composed over 800 songs, in which 500 of them were hits. This was a very impressive accomplishment for the short lifetime of his work. Cole Porter, once described his music as “the high of the high brows combined with the low of the lowbrows”. “A Cole Porter Songbook” gave the audience an excellent example of this description though this performance.
The cast of “A Cole Porter Songbook” who consisted of Christopher Logan, Jill Sasso, William Lucas, and Erin Daly ; filling in for regular cast member, Sierra Naomi ; managed to highlight most of the great works of this renowned composer and artist. The cast not only sang each song beautifully, but acted each song with excellent interpretation bringing the audience into the subject of each Cole Porter composition. The songs performed as solos, duos, trios and full ensemble included, “ I Get a Kick Out of You”, sung by Jill, “It’s Delovely” sung by Jill and Will accompanied with fabulous dancing”, “You’re the Top” sung and danced by Erin and Christopher, and the company performed a steamy version of “It’s Too Darn Hot”. Christopher and Will also provided wonderful comic relief with “Brush up Your Shakespeare”. Of course, a Cole Porter performance would not be complete without “Night and Day”, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”, “Anything Goes and Blow Gabriel Blow” ; to name a few. A highlight of the evening was a Take Me to Paris Medley which included, “You Don’t Know Paree”, “Cest Magnifique”, “C’est L’amour”,”Allez-Vous-En”, “Give Him the Ooh La-La, capping it off with the renowned “I Love Paris”. The superb musical direction by Aaron Benham was clearly evident with this medley as it was with the entire performance.
The choreography under David Heimann was excellent. The pace of the show was great and never boring. David made great use of the venue creating the intimate connection with the audience. David made full use of the poles on the stage having the cast dancing around them.
Four-time Jeff Award winning Director, Fred Anzevino has another hit on his hands. One of his recent successes was “Smokey Joe’s Café” which was not only extended at The No Exit Theater, but has been brought to The Royal George Theater, playing there for the past several months. In fact, I am very anxious to see his next season’s shows which will include “Masterclass, a solstice celebration of “A Very Merry Madrigal”, Stephen Sondheim’s “Passion”, and “A Tribute to The Andrews Sisters”.
“A Cole Porter Songbook” is a showcase for wonderful talent, excellent musicians and dancers, and an enjoyable evening of great music. It is just a good time and a great revival of listening to Cole Porter’s excellence. “A Cole Porter Songbook” is highly recommended and is a must see, and not to be missed! “A Cole Porter Songbook” has been extended until September 1. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, and Sundays at 7:00pm. The No Exit Theater located in Rogers Park at 6970 Glenwood Avenue Chicago, IL 60626 . For calendar information, please visit www.TheatreInChicago.com