The fun flowed freer near the finale on opening night of this musical revue presented by the Robert Ivey Theatre Series and Footlight Players Theatre. It took a few songs to loosen everyone up, or perhaps the gradual transition from straight performance of the standards to a more carefree glee reflected the careers of Noël Coward and Cole Porter. Either way, it wasn’t until bits of self-referential humor began to slip in, and the ensemble became a little more playful, that the show went from good to great.
With equal representation from both sides of the pond, this musical revue can be seen as a sort of dueling songwriter event, albeit a posthumous duel: Broadway and the West End, Noël and Cole. Their respective works are by now so universal that even those who claim they don’t know them still know them — sing a few lines and there is the snap of recognition. “Love for Sale?” Hey, we’re prepared to pay the price.
The ensemble, which features Russell Anderson, Alton Cox, Elaine Cray, Rebecca, and Ben Lee with Deanna McBroom on piano, performed on a sparsely elegant stage lit with sea-like reflections of green cut with red lines.
In the pauses between their songs, details from the lives of Noël and Cole were presented in parallel by narrators Robert Ivey and Evan Parry. With a few hesitant lines near the beginning of the show, Parry seemed to need a minute to settle into his role.
The ensemble interacted seamlessly throughout the show, however, keeping the pace snappy and the mood upbeat. The lows were never too low and the highs were truly exceptional.
Elaine Cray sizzled with poise and confidence throughout the opening night, her voice utterly mesmerizing.
Clear audience favorites included the ensemble rendition of “You’re the Top” as well as the comedic bits, like Elaine Cray and Ben Lee’s spot-on take on “Mrs. Worthington,” a campy play on “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and sly re-imaginings of “It’s All Right With Me” and “Let’s Do It.”
More than a nostalgic nod to the roaring ’20s, Noël, Cole, and We slips modern winks into the canon, resulting in a tribute to talent that is not overly reverent.
With a few tweaks here and there, this show would be oh-so-easy to love.
NOËL, COLE, AND WE • Piccolo Spoleto’s Theatre Series • $20, $17 seniors/students • June 1 at 7 p.m.; May 29, June 2, 4 ,8 at 7:30 p.m.; June 3, 7 at 5 p.m.; June 5 at 8 p.m.; June 9 at 6 p.m. • Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. • 554-6060
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