We meet Cole after his first Broadway show, a flop called See America First, which he wrote in his early 20s. He's being consoled by his famous and wealthy friends at a cocktail party, everyone dressed to the nines, and from there we progress from one cocktail party to another through Cole's life. He lived in Paris for a time, hobnobbing with other ex-pat artists and marrying his wife Linda - a marriage Wikipedia calls "mutually advantageous;" Porter was gay, a fact hinted at in the show but not overtly addressed. He returned to Broadway with much success, until a horse-riding accident left him with severely injured legs and constant pain. He makes a career resurgence with Kiss Me, Kate, but the story gets a bit melancholy as those carefree days of his youth are behind him.
The story of Cole's life is told in short scenes between over 30 of his songs. We don't really go too deep into any aspect of his life, but enough to get a picture of who he was. The show is also a mini history of the Broadway/Hollywood/artist scene of the 20s, 30s, and 40s, which is fun. His most popular songs are all performed, including "You're the Top," "Miss Otis Regrets," "Begin the Beguine," "It's Delovely," "Another Op'nin, Another Show," and on and on. The strong 11-person cast is accompanied by the classiest of arrangements - grand piano (Kathleen Hollar) and upright bass (Spencer Becker), under music director Christopher Stordalen. And the best part is - actors are not miked because it's not needed in the intimate in-the-round space.
|Eli Coats as Cole Porter (photo courtesy of Theatre in the Round)|
The in-the-round stage, which the audience walks through on their way to their seats, has been transformed into a chic and swanky apartment suitable for cocktail parties, with a happy pink, purple, and blue color scheme, bench seating, a bar, and lots of cocktails. The cast is dressed in elegant period clothing as appropriate for parties with wealthy artists and their patrons. (Set design by John A. Woskoff, costume design by Morgan Groff.)
Red Hot and Cole continues weekends through May 19 at Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis' Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.