Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Another Op'nin, Another Show

BMC celebrates 100
by Christopher Key

If you’re the Bellingham Music Club and it’s your 100th anniversary, how do you start the party?  With Cole Porter, of course.  Impresario Scott Henderson put together a BMC show last year that celebrated Broadway and it was so popular that he was inspired to write a show featuring the man who owned the Great White Way for much of the 20th century.  The result is called A Swell Party with Cole Porter and it’s…well…swell.

Yes, there’s a story line involving a party at a Manhattan penthouse with a couple of star-struck young lovers.  But, as in most musicals, the story simply exists to tie 35 of Porter’s best-loved songs together.  It works like “Night and Day.”

In that more innocent time before World War II, Porter was regarded as rather naughty given songs like “Let’s Do It.”  Henderson’s script flirts delightfully with the naughtiness while still managing a PG-13 ambiance.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

Martha Benedict plays famed party-giver Elsa to the Maxwell.  She drops names the way Sarah Palin drops non-sequiturs and still manages to encourage a budding romance among the hired help.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

The hired help, struggling actors naturellement, are played to wide-eyed perfection by Megann Schmidt and Ben Buchanan.  Their mutual dilemma involves the choice between wanting to climb the social ladder and love.  Guess which wins in the end.  Hey, this is high schmaltz, but it’s tempered by Porter’s engaging music and witty lyrics.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

Martin Bray is part of an endangered species known as the song-and-dance man.  Think Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.  You don’t see many of them these days, but Bray upholds the honorable tradition in fine style and it’s a rare pleasure to watch him work his magic.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

He’s paired with the delightful Sherrie Kahn, whose versatile voice can charm the birds out of the trees or get downright torchy as the occasion demands.  This production gives her the chance to show off her acting chops and she’s “Too Darn Hot.”

Now, for the bad news.  The two shows at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center on October 8 and 24 are sold out.  The good news is that there are still tickets left for the performance on November 21 at the Jansen Art Center in Lynden.  A word to the wise is sufficient, eh?  Score your tix before it’s too late at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2371059.

If you know Cole Porter, you’ll love this show.  If you don’t know Cole Porter, this is a great way to get introduced to one of America’s songwriting legends.  When Porter takes the spotlight,
“Anything Goes.”

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