With such a high profile historical character being the focus of the production, it was a tantalising choice by writers Izaak Lim and Nick Maclaine to omit him from the stage. Selective sections of Cole Porter’s professional and private life were played out recently in You’ve Got That Thing – A Celebration of Cole Porter. Using the music and lyrics of the man himself and book by Lim and Maclaine, director Michael Loney conjured an alluring, tasteful and funny image for audiences over 4 nights of packed houses Downstairs at His Maj.
With a career spanning decades, productions and numerous hit songs as well as a colourful social life, Lim and Maclaine did well to choose only a portion of moments to cover in detail. Through the personal experiences of three characters close to Cole Porter, we were able to devise the shape of a man who had a great impact on musical theatre.
Linda Porter has been historically described as a wealthy divorcee, a slightly older woman who, in marrying Cole, was more interested in maintaining her social standing that in his sexuality. The character of Linda in this production was extremely likeable. With the ravishingly beautiful Pilar Mata Dupont exuding grace and poise with every word and step, it was easy to see her as a devoted wife prepared to turn a blind eye to her husband’s male lover.
The young lover in this case was a man simply named Edward, who could represent any number of the documented companions that Porter had in a time where it was not socially acceptable for a public figure to be in a same sex relationship. Played by the fresh-faced and handsome William Groucutt, Edward was an endearing character who also functioned seamlessly as a narrator to progress the story.
It was Edward who brought Ethel Merman into the mix. Starting the show as a couple of struggling artists, they got a big break when invited along to one of Cole’s famous gatherings. Ethel got her moment by singing to impress all at the party and we watched as she went on to become inspiration for the music of Cole Porter. Some of Porter’s greatest hits (You’re The Top, I Get A Kick Out Of You, Night & Day, De-lovely, Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love ) were speckled throughout where they furthered the action, or just provided an outlet for the incredible voice of Analisa Bell who brought her own cheeky charisma to the role of Ethel Merman.
The simplicity of this cabaret production was perhaps its greatest asset. The music, characters, costuming and staging were balanced so that nothing crowded out the other. You’ve Got That Thing is another example of Perth artists inspired to devise new work, with the support of The Brainbox project.
You’ve Got That Thing – A Celebration of Cole Porter
by Izaak Lim and Nick Maclaine
Director Michael Loney
Venue: DownStairs at the Maj | 825 Hay St, Perth
Dates/Times: 10, 11, 12 and 13 August @ 7.30pm
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing 9484 1133 | bocsticketing.com.au