Lyrics & Lyricists
Let’s Misbehave: The Sensational Songs of Cole Porter
92nd Street Y, NYC, February 11, 2017
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes
Education has never been so entertaining as Let’s Misbehave: The Sensational Songs of Cole Porter at 92nd Street Y’s Lyrics and Lyricists. Artistic Director/Musical Director/orchestrator/writer David Loud hosted the Cole Porter songbook with the talents of Allison Blackwell, Lewis Cleale, Nikki Renee Daniels, Matthew Scott and Rebecca Luker.
Cole Porter and Irving Berlin were the only two songwriters in the golden age of the American songbook who wrote both music and lyrics. Interweaving Loud’s smart anecdotes and biographical facts about the fascinating life of Porter, Noah Racey directed a lineup of mini-plays, mixing and matching the singers with smooth harmonies and fairly tight connections. Some selections were as well-known as “It’s De-Lovely,” four lyric-packed refrains delivered with high spirits by Lewis Cleale. Other famous Porter patter songs performed by the cast included “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love),” an example of Porter’s wit with double entendres. Sex and love was less subtle in Cleale’s “All of You,” and pregnant Nikki Renee Daniels was superb with the sexy humor in “Always True to You in My Fashion,” giving it a different twist.
Porter was a prodigious worker, writing complex songs that often unveil surprising conflicting emotions. The conflict is straight out there in “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” sung by the three women. However, in a dramatic three-person segment when Matthew Scott ran into his former love with someone new, he sang “Just One of Those Things” shadowed by possibility. What if things were different? Daniels’ rendition of “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” and Scott’s “In the Still of the Night” both reflected Porter’s glamorous yet desperately sad life, as did Scott’s “Love for Sale” paired with a theatrical “I’m a Gigolo.”
Demonstrating Porter’s creativity, Allison Blackwell illustrated what the songwriter could do with one note and harmonic changes in “Night and Day.” On a more ferocious note, she delivered a vibrant “I Hate Men.”
While all the singers showed strong and confident voices, Rebecca Luker’s warm flexible soprano was a standout, with gracefully nuanced interpretations, as in the lovely “So in Love.” She perceptively delivered “A Picture of Me Without You,” and delved the subtle wit in “The Tale of the Oyster.” With deft expressiveness, she stressed key phrases, like “Mickey Mouse” and “Ovaltine,” evoking the timeless humor in “You’re the Top.”
For Cole Porter’s miracle of perfectly meshed lyrics and music, Loud also wrote the arrangements and orchestrations, Pedro Porro provided projections fitting the songs, and conductor/pianist Paul Masse led a stellar six-piece band.