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C'est Magnifique

PorterThe venerable Downey Civic Light Opera, in Downey, California, headed by the ever-vivacious Executive Director-Producer Marsha Moode, continues what seems to have become an annual tradition. Recently, each season’s schedule of popular Broadway musicals of yesteryear has been spiced up with a biographical musical revue, featuring the evergreen classics of a legendary musical-theater tunesmith.

So far, Moode has offered excellent compilations of Rodgers and Hart and Irving Berlin songs. This season’s revue, which continues through March 4 at the Downey Theatre, is the buoyant and edifying “Cole” (devised by Benny Green and Alan Strachan), a delicious matchup of some of DCLO’s finest regular performers and promising newcomers with cream-of-the-crop songs from the immortal composer-lyricist Cole Porter.

The narration, which is shared by the various performers, summarizes Porter’s personal ups and downs and his career trajectory. It smoothly segues to more than 40 musical segments, ranging from sweet ballads to comedic numbers to show-stopping dance routines—in order words, covering the whole gamut of styles in Cole’s rich repertoire. Heading the cast are real-life spouses William T. Lewis and Charlotte Carpenter, who appear as the master songwriter and his beloved wife Linda, in scintillating portrayals, using their incomparable singing voices to great advantage. DCLO stalwarts Robert Standley, Laura Dickinson (achieving a convincing Ethel Merman belt), Kit Wilson, and others are likewise in top form.

SoCal Stages_blogThe Porter classics (“It’s De-Lovely,” “Anything Goes,” “You’re the Top,” “Begin the Beguine,” “In the Still of the Night,” “Too Darn Hot,” “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” “Another Opening, Another Show,” “Can-Can,” “Wunderbar,” and so many more) just keep coming, and it’s a pleasure to hear some lesser-known songs in the vast Porter canon as well. Nathan Wise’s choreography is ebulliently entertaining, and musical director-conductor Jimmy Vann and his orchestra treat the fabulous score with TLC all the way through. One quibble: In its present form, the show is too long for a vehicle of this type. Some judicious trimming would help. Yet it’s a genuine treat for musical-theater buffs—a nostalgic trip back to the days when “musical comedy” was—as stated so eloquently by impresario Julian Marsh in “42nd Street”—the most beautiful words in the English language.

--Les Spindle



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