Director/playwright/costume designer John C. McIlwee’s elegant new musical revue Anything Cole! A Musical Salute to Cole Porter, the second show of University Theatre at N.C. State’s TheatreFest 2006 — “Best of the Fest” — series, might be too much of a good thing. Perhaps better entitled Everything Cole! it includes all or portions of 56 witty and oh-so-sophisticated café songs and show tunes by justly celebrated Indiana-born vocalist and songsmith Cole Porter (1891-1964), who would have turned 105 on June 9th. That is an overabundance of riches, especially when so many of the lyrics express such similar sentiments.
On opening night (June 1st), Anything Cole! ran approximately two hours and 10 minutes, including intermission. That’s a long, long walk down Memory Lane, even with musical director Julie Florin (piano), Gregory Dixon (piano), Nic Slaton (stand-up bass), and John Ruggero (drums) providing sprightly accompaniment throughout the evening.
The cast includes six men (Jeff Aldridge, Robin Dorff, Greg Flowers, Alex Miller, Linh Schladweiler, and Matthew-Jason Willis) and six women (Dorothy Recasner Brown, JoAnne Dickinson, Aimee Henderson, Carolyn McKenna, Marilee Spell, and Caroline White), plus a vivacious trio of coeds or recent college grads (Catherine Gerdes, Jocelyn Quinn Henderson, and Jessie Stewart). The men’s voices are adequate, with one exception. (Jeff Aldridge’s light, airy tenor barely carries over the footlights.) With their suave vocal stylings, Dorothy Brown and Caroline White stand out among the equally adequate — but generally unremarkable — female singers in the cast.
Already widely acknowledged as one of the Triangle’s finest dramatic and comic actresses, Dorothy Brown sets the TheatreFest audience on fire with her smoldering rendition of “Love for Sale” and tickles their funny-bones with her antic impersonation of “The Laziest Girl in Town.” And Caroline White spreads her vocal wings on “True Love” and “Why Can’t You Behave.”
Other highlights of the show include comic renditions of “Be a Clown,” “Anything Goes” (with Aimee Henderson singing the lead), “Let’s Do It,” and “You’re the Top”; the female ensemble’s version of “Begin the Beguine”; Marilee Spell and Carolyn McKenna’s brassy rendition of “I Love Paris”; and Linh Schladweiler, Robin Dorff, and Matthew-Jason Willis’ monkeyshines during the “Siberia” segment. The trio of Catherine Gerdes, Jocelyn Quinn Henderson, and Jessie Stewart provides many of the revue’s most memorable moments. Their singing and fancy footwork in the show’s “Anything Goes” (especially their tap-dancing), “It’s De-Lovely,” and “You’re the Top” numbers also deserve special kudos.
University Theatre at N.C. State presents Anything Cole! A Musical Salute to Cole Porter Sunday, June 4, at 3 p.m.; Thursday, June 8, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, June 10, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, June 11, at 3 p.m.; Wednesday, June 14, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, June 17, at 8 p.m. in Thompson Theatre, corner of Dunn Ave. and Jensen Dr., Raleigh, North Carolina $14-$16 ($6 NCSU students and $12-$14 senior citizens, students, NCSU faculty, staff, and alumni). 919/515-1100 or http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?organ_val=22089&event_val=COLE. University Theatre at N.C. State: http://www.fis.ncsu.edu/University_Players/theatrefest/index.html [inactive 7/06]. Cole Porter (Cole Wide Web): http://www.coleporter.org/.