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Hot 'n Cole

The Westport Country Playhouse offers a swellegant, elegant tribute to Cole Porter. logo
Shonn Wiley, Lewis Cleale, Donna Lynne Champlin,
Peter Reardon, Andrea Dora, and Whitney Bashor
in Hot 'n Cole
(© T. Charles Erickson)
Musical comedy revelers on the alert for something Elsa Maxwellish need to know about Hot 'N Cole, the bubbly two-act revue of Cole Porter songs being thrown at the Westport County Playhouse. This swellegant, elegant tribute has been smartly devised by David Armstrong, Mark Waldrop and Bruce Coyle, directed by James Naughton, choreographed by Lisa Shriver, and expertly designed by Hugh Landwerhr and Laurie Churban Kohn.

Ultimately, it all goes down as smoothly as the martinis that the six-member cast -- Whitney Bashor, Donna Lynne Champlin, Lewis Cleale, Andrea Dora, Peter Reardon and Shonn Wiley -- pretend to be sipping as they effortlessly sing and dance (but never speak) the famous and superlative Porter repertoire.

This affair is not a drinker's debauch but an upbeat sophisticates outing, as the ever-ebullient Porter would have liked the planet to view le tout New York. While the players occasionally break up and make up, not one of them is so in love that he or she is happy to be taunted, deserted, deceived, or hurt. Indeed, the closest anyone comes to romantic despair is Champlin, who offers the evening's single best solo with a poignant "Get Out of Town," kept in her tremulous head voice.

At other times, curiously enough, the songs on which Champlin takes charge don't seem to be in her key. But when she gets around to the appropriately included "I'm Throwin' a Ball Tonight," she joins pianist Mark Berman and Steven F. Silverstein at the ivory-tickler's piano and plays some hot jazz chords.

Cleale, who is the only member of the cast to never sound off-pitch, gets to be scotch-and-wry on the hilarious society send-up "Tale of the Oyster," and he and Dora duel cutely when he insists "Let's Do It" and she counters with "Let's Not Talk About Love." Reardon sensitively chants the obscure "Broth of a Boy" from the unmade film Mississippi Belle and later injects giddy life into "Dizzy Baby," while Bashor dizzily dances.

Moreover, the terping to "Now You Has Jazz" that ends both acts is the sort that drives audiences to wild response, while for "In the Still of the Night" and "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" the entire ensemble is flawless, with the Hi-Lo's-like harmonies a treat Porter himself would have praised. Still, Porter might have missed some of his lyrics, which have been occasionally edited to accommodate medleys or movement or both. (He also might have scratched his head at the lyric change in "Just One of Those Things" from the names Romeo and Juliet to Tristan and Isolde).

If Naughton and his soigne friends don't stress the sharp-toothed bite of some previous Porter revue, that's probably fine with the Westport folk, who will happily sink their teeth into this confection.

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