Review: The Cole Porter Review at the Shaw Festival

by Lynn on October 28, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live at the Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake,  Oct. 17, 2020 2:00 pm

Part of the Shaw Festival Fall Concert Series.

Jackie Maxwell Theatre

Directed by Tim Carroll

Music Director, Paul Sportelli

Choreographed by Kimberley Rampersad

Cast: Kyle Blair

Andrew Broderick

James Daily

Kristi Frank

Élodie Gillett

Alexis Gordon

Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane

Jonathan Tan

Bravo to the Shaw Festival for keeping many of its actors employed by coming up with this concert series devoted to the works of: Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and Dorothy Fields. Initially these concerts were offered only once over three weekends in October. They have now decided to offer them over the month of November. Details below.

This concert, devoted to the works of Cole Porter,  was supposed to take place outdoors in the Baillie Courtyard, but the possibility of inclement weather, wanting to protect the piano, and fearing the chairs would sink in the soggy earth,  necessitated the concert be moved indoors to the Jackie Maxwell Theatre. There were round tables with chairs for 2 and four people, each properly distanced.

The audience of 50, for the most part, was masked (notes on each table urged us to wear our masks at all times). I say “for the most part’ because two people wore their masks hanging around their necks for the whole time they were in the room. It’s those touchy moments when an usher is needed to gently remind them of the obvious but no one did. I also wished there was even a simple one sheet program that listed the songs and who sung them. Something to keep in mine for the next time.

The cast of eight entered, masked, carrying instrument cases. They too sat on chairs with a music stand in front properly separated.

Jonathan Tan graciously welcomed us.  He said that some of the work of Cole Porter was problematic because it was racist. What to do? He said that the cast and creative members discussed the problems. Cancelling Cole Porter was not an option. Tan said that some of the offending lyrics were changed or removed. For some reason he didn’t indicate what those words were. I had heard that in earlier versions of the concert, given for donors, he did mention the words, but not here. I think they need to be said. A whole chorus in “Let’s Fall in Love” was cut, as it usually is, because of its offensive names for some peoples.

In these sensitive times a comment that references the cut chorus is needed. Language used in earlier times is not used now. The word gay had a different connotation in the 1930s than it does now. I don’t want the offending chorus re-instated. But I think it needs to be stated to reference its offensiveness. And we need to hear it.

Cole Porter’s genius as a wordsmith is obvious in such songs as: “Let’s Fall in Love”, “You’re the Top,” “Just One of Those Things,” and “Anything Goes.” He plays with internal rhyming, language and dextrous phrasing. Your head is swimming with his mastery of language.

The cast of eight to a person sings beautifully and with joy. They are directed by Tim Carroll to focus on the singer singing and show their appreciation when the singer finishes. Instead of applauding, they snap their fingers. Kimberley Rampersad uses clever choreography to augment some songs. As for the music cases, they contained tap shoes. The cast gave a rousing version of “Anything Goes” to conclude the show, first tapping while seated then for full blown tapping while standing. Terrific.    

For a schedule of what concert will be offered for free in November, please go to:

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