Posts Tagged ‘Idyllwild Master Chorale’

Master Chorale’s ‘Cole’ Was ‘De-Lovely’

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Many of Cole Porter's show tunes showed his bawdy side

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Idyllwild Master Chorale’s “Cole,” a wildly entertaining tribute to musician and lyricist Cole Porter, featured 28 of his songs in two acts, with interesting narratives, Broadway songs, short dance numbers, glitzy costumes and bawdy humor. Locals who went to see the show on Saturday night, July 24, laughed, sang along and gave the troupe standing ovation.

“This show was a lot of fun,” said Rosemary Barnhardt, who came early with her husband, Ken. She is a friend of Phyllis Brown, one of the cast members.

“Phyllis told us to sit in the front row, because she’d might sit on Ken’s lap during one of her solos,” Rosemary said with a giggle.

Phyllis Brown camped it up for her Cole solo, "The Laziest Girl in Town"

As it turned out, Ken had his legs crossed during Phyllis’ rendition of “The Laziest Girl in Town,” so she just flirted with him and laced her feather boa around his neck.

Besides Phyllis, the other cast members included: Scott Fisher, Lisa Furugen, Bella Gioeli, Justin Patrick Holmes, Dwight “Buzz” Holmes, Larry Kawano, Steve Kunkle, Linda Lackey, Lori Palmer, Barbara Rayliss, Jay Rubin and Mike Sebastian.

Interestingly enough, those 28 songs were created with only two instruments a grand piano and a bass. Ed Hansen played the piano and Marshall Hawkins, from the Jazz Department at Idyllwild Arts, was on bass.

Dressed in a black sequin dress, Lori Palmer sings her heart out in "What is this Thing Called Love?"

The staging was minimal, reminiscent of the Broadway productions, with Egyptian columns, and black tiered steps that you could dance on. The back stage was used for the larger group numbers, while the front stage, close to the audience, was used for shorter numbers. More than likely, the shorter song-and-dance numbers were a distraction while the cast changed clothes for the next number.

Act One featured 16 songs from Cole Porter’s early life, including his time at Harvard and Yale.

“He was editor of the school magazine at Yale, and could have gone into lumbering, farming or mining, but he went into Harvard Law School,” said Larry Kawano, who was acting as one of the narrators. However, Cole, who was named after his wealthy grandfather, graduated from Harvard’s Music Department instead.

Cole wrote more than 300 songs at Yale, including “Bingo Eli Yale” and “When the Summer Moon Comes ‘Long,” from 1902 that were sung early that night.

“Cole was a rich man, but also a hardworking one,” said Scott Fisher as another narrator. “’See America First,’ his first attempt on Broadway was not successful. “Everyone hated it, even the cast members.”

When they sang “Lost Liberty Blues,” from Des Ambassadeurs in 1928, the pianist, Barbara Rayliss, in a Doris Day wig, was also sporting a foam green Liberty crown, along with the four guys who sported black robes, the foam crowns and torch flashlights.

(from L) Lisa Furugen sings, "Mrs. Lowborough, Goodbye" with an oversized martini glass

Unlike his contemporaries, Cole Porter was known for his bawdy humor and keen lyrics. According to Will Friedwald, on a CD dust jacket of “The Very Best of Cole Porter,”

“The durability of the songs themselves is proof that he succeeded. A Porter song could tell a whole story, and, like that other great American art form, the Blues, Porter could often communicate with what he leaves out of a song than what he puts in.”

Lisa Furugen, who also co-directed the show, did a hilarious rendition of “Mrs. Lowborough, Goodbye” from 1934. Wearing a red curly wig and dressed in a black sheath dress with lots of feathers, Lisa delighted the crowd when she drank from an oversized martini glass. Her voice started clear, then got increasingly more slurred as she imbibed more gin. Her “gulping” sound effects made the crowd giggle and cheer.

“I’m a Gigolo,” from Cole’s 1934 “Wake Up and Dream,” was made popular in its day for its clever lyrics, such as “I’m pushing ladies with lifted faces around the dance floor.” However, Mike Sebastian took it to another level with his tap dancing. He started from the top tier and danced his way down the steps to the front stage. The audience broke out in spontaneous applause.

'Cole' divas (from L) Phyllis, Linda & Lisa

Lisa Furugen and Steve Kunkle gave a memorable “I Get a Kick out of You,” from “Anything Goes.” Lovebirds Lisa and Steve, looked deeply into each other’s eyes, as they danced and sang.

After the conclusion of Act One, some of the cast members came out and spoke with friends and family members in the crowd. Phyllis, still in character, was wearing her black dress with the pink feathers on the fringe, was “looking for a date” and playing up the call girl role. She followed “Love for Sale,” in Act One with “The Laziest Girl in Town.”

This group sings, "Brush up on Your Shakespeare" to impress women

Act Two started out with signature songs by Cole, including “What is this Thing Called Love?” and “You do Something to Me” from 1929, the year before Cole hit it big with Fred Astaire in “Gay Divorce.”

“Hollywood is like living on the moon,” said Larry of Cole.

“In 1940, when screen legend Greta Garbo asked Cole Porter if he was happy, he said, ‘yes,’” Larry said.

“’That must be so strange,’” was her reply.

“But, by the time he attempted to perform Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” on Broadway, the Cole Porter era was over,” Larry said.

Linda Lackey (with Marshall Hawkins at Rt corner) used to sing professionally

In a barbershop style harmony, Larry, Steve and two others sang, “Brush up Your Shakespeare,” that delighted the crowd. Instead of backstage, they exited down the front aisle, and hurried back to finish the last number, “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” from 1944, that included the entire cast. By the time it was over, the audience of about 50 people, were on their feet.

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