- CHARITY BENEFIT
by Linda Amiel Burns
“Mad Dogs & Educated Fleas: Noel & Cole, A Battle of Wits” is the fourth concert of the five programs that the 92nd Street Y presented in its popular Lyrics & Lyricists series for 2012. The program notes say, “for much of the 20th century, Noel Coward (1899-1973) and Cole Porter (1891-1964) epitomized chic and breezy sophistication. Their brand of urbane, irreverent, high- society wit mirrored, if not the public’s actual experience, then its aspirations.”
This delightful program focused on the comedy songs of these talented men and on the fact that they shared many traits, although coming from different countries and backgrounds. Noel and Cole wrote both music and lyrics that gave their compositions a seamless quality and they “were master craftsmen, creating complex song structures that showcased their virtuosity with internal rhymes, rapid-fire patter sections and dazzling wordplay.”
The charming Mark Waldrop served as Artistic Director, Writer and Host, heading a terrific cast of singers: La Tanya Hall, Jeff Harnar, Edward Hibbert, Colleen McHugh, T. Oliver Reid and special guest: Harriet Harris. Don Rebic served as music director, arranger and accompanist for the excellent band made up of Sean Harkness on guitar, Dick Sarpota on bass and Ray Marchica on drums.
Noel Coward wrote many comic patter songs which are still well-known today such as “Nina” sung by T. Oliver, “A Bar on the Piccola Marina” sung with panache by Edward, “World Weary” with Colleen & T. Oliver, “Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington” sung by Jeff, and Harriet’s wonderful rendition of “I Went to a Marvelous Party.” However, there were a few that were new to me such as “I Like America,” performed by Edward and the patriotic “London Pride” sung by Colleen that was written in 1941 during the blitz.
Many of Cole Porter’s songs continue their popularity, such as “Begin the Beguine” sung by La Tanya, “You’re the Top” performed by the entire cast, “At Long Last Love” sung by the men and “(Let’s Do It,) Let’s Fall in Love.” A few of Porter’s remarkable ballads were used such as “I Love Paris” paired with “You Don’t Know Paris” (T. Oliver) and “Love For Sale” (La Tanya), the lyrics considered racy at the time and not played for over 40 years.
Kudos to L & L Artistic Director, Deborah Grace Winer for creating another banner year for this iconic series and everyone involved, especially Mark Waldrop, in making the Noel & Cole program very special. He is quoted as saying that each of these gentlemen were celebrated with their own programs in the past but “it is my hope that looking at their work – especially their comic numbers – side by side, we can offer a fresh perspective on what made them so great!” The goal was certainly accomplished and it is my hope that the songs of these brilliant men will charm and amuse generations to come.
The last show of the series will take place on Sat. June 2 – Mon, June 4. “It’s Magic – Nine Decades of Songs from Warner Bros” hosted by Rex Reed with Christine Andreas Polly Bergen, Jason Graae, Sue Raney & Tom Wopat.
Visit: http://92Y.org/Lyrics or phone 212 415-5500 for tickets.
*Photo: Richard Termine