A Touch of Class
Arts Club serves up a good Porter
by Jay Catterson
High Society, the Cole Porter stage musical adapted from the Philip Barry play The Philadelphia Story and the 1956 movie of the same name, which starred screen legends Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, hits the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage in this Arts Club Vancouver production. For those of you familiar with the movie, the core story is the same; wealthy socialite Tracy Lord is in the midst of planning a lavish wedding to her stodgy fiancée, but over the course of a weekend and debaucherous pre-nuptual soirée, she has the difficult decision of choosing between her fiancée, her ex-husband, and a tabloid news reporter for her hand in marriage. But for the stage musical, High Society has been augmented with a book by Arthur Kopit and other classic Cole Porter tunes pulled from different shows. (Hmm, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue? I sense a theme here!)
Overall, this Arts Club production succeeds, with its lavish set design by Alison Green that makes effective use of the small and shallow Stanley stage. The ensemble is also quite effective. Jennifer Lines embodies socialite Tracy Lord with much gusto and stately elegance, and delivers a performance that is true to the period. Other notable standouts include Nicola Lipman's hilarious turn as Mother Lord, and Norman Browning's delightfully inebriated Uncle Willie. One pleasant cast surprise was Bridget Esler as the mischievous younger sister, Dinah Lord. Her vocal prowess and acting ability is miles ahead of her years, and she is definitely one child actress that has a great future ahead. However, I felt that Todd Talbot's take on Tracy's troublemaking ex-hubby Dexter Haven fell flat, and his vocal ability was not as strong as the other ensemble members.
As much as I would love to give this production a rave review, I felt that the show was a little sluggish for an upbeat Cole Porter tuner. I don't fault the cast, the production team, nor Director Bill Millerd for this; I feel that Arthur Kopit's book was to blame for the languid, and sometimes clunky start to the show. However, once things proceeded from the first act through to Act Two, this piece blossomed with an endearingly heartwarming charm, and in the end the production won me over.
Like the finer things in life, this High Society elegantly proved itself worthy of a visit.