A Swell Party – Review

SEDOS
reviewed by Jenni Balow

What a swell party that was! With gorgeous girls, simply oodles of champagne, and even lovelier boys, who could want for anything more.

Cole Porter was in a class of his own, writing both the words and the music to more than 800 cleverly original songs during the Thirties and Forties, throwing lavish parties around the world, and not giving a damn over his sexual preference for men, even if it was illegal at the time.

But what is fascinating, and I didn’t know it before watching this celebration of his life and work, was the tragedy of a riding accident that happened at the height of his fame. His legs were crushed when his horse fell and rolled on him, but despite the pain and many operations before a final amputation, he still worked.

And his best Broadway hits, Kiss Me Kate, and High Society, which starred Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra, were the result.

Porter was born wealthy, an American man of impeccable taste, who was sent to Harvard to study Law, but preferred Music.

This production, a Minack debut for SEDOS which usually performs just off Fleet Street, classily directed by Roger Harwood and Dawn Harrison-Wallace, dances us through his amazing, sometimes outrageous, ultimately poignant life story, on a triumph of an Art Deco set designed by Steven King.

At its heart, two grand pianos stand on stylish black and white patterned floor roundels, complemented by a heavy red leather chesterfield sofa, period screens, sideboard and trolleys set with crystal decanters and a never-ending supply of dry martini.

And of course, a ‘roomful’ of beautiful people, the immaculately coiffured scarlet-lipsticked women wearing diamonds and dresses to die for, the men equally fine in tuxedos and bow ties.

What is stunning, is the way they move into natural groups, standing at a balustrade to gaze out to sea, and gathering around the pianos to sing, all looking as though they were to this manner born.

This is glamour with bucketfuls of fizz, and a feeling of extravagant luxury washes over us as the SEDOS singers seemingly effortlessly swing through around 50 famous numbers with on-stage pianists, musical director Matt Gould and Ryan Macaulay, the brilliant Annette Brown tooting and drumming, and the Minack’s executive director Zoe Curnow having her own party on double bass.

Matt and Ryan are a delightful duo, tap dancing too, with narration by the ultra smooth James Franey as Cole, joined by Liz Flint as his wife Linda in shimmering emerald silk, backed by Stephen Beeney, Susan Booth, Rachel Elfassy-Bitoun, Will Garood, Deborah Lean, Yvette Shiel and Alex Yelland.

Producer Lizzie Levett, choreographer Jane Saunders, sound and lighting Adam Coppard and Olly Levett, and stage manager Andrew Laidlaw and team make it all so believable.

When’s the next party?