Are you a Porterphile? After this show, you may be.
The first mainstage production of the 2002-03 York season in Manhattan began previews Dec. 3, celebrating lesser-known "unpublished" Porter songs. It continues to Jan. 12, 2003.
Porterphiles — the title of which is a reference to those addicted to Porter's de-lovely songs — is devised by Cole Porter expert Judy Brown (who also musical directs) with the blessing of the Porter Trust. James Morgan, the York's artistic director, directs, with musical staging by Barry McNabb.
The cast includes Lynne Halliday, Ricky Russell and Stephen Zinnato, singing songs even diehard Porterphiles might not know.
"There will be no shiny silver and black scenery, no cigarette holders nor any martini glasses in Porterphiles," Morgan said in a statement. "Instead we have three talented singers, a grand piano and 30-plus wonderful 'new' Cole Porter songs." Expected at the opening night are musical comedy songwriters Betty Comden, Charles Strouse and Tom Jones, who will hear "We Shall Never Be Younger," "The Extra Man," "A Weekend Affair," "Wild Wedding Bells," "Pets," "It's No Laughing Matter," "Kathleen," "Who, But You?," "Don't Let It Get You Down," "Coffee," "Through Thick and Thin," "So What?," "I Wrote a Play," "Salt Air," "In Case You Don't Know," "Just Another Page in Your Diary," "Ah Fong Lo" — all lesser-known Porter tunes — by the songwriter of Kiss Me, Kate, Anything Goes, Silk Stockings and Can Can.
Designers are Margiann Flanagan (costumes), Mary Jo Dondlinger (lighting) and Morgan (sets).
Judy Brown, who conceived Porterphiles, is a leading authority on the music of Cole Porter, including his entire unpublished output. She compiled and edited "Cole Porter Rediscovered" for Warner Bros. Publications and has recorded "Unmined Cole: Unpublished Gems of Cole Porter" with soprano Paulina Stark.
Halliday was The Voice in American Ballet Theatre's world premiere of Weren't We Fools and played Mimi in the Judy Brown-Thommie Walsh show, Pied a Terre, both with music by Cole Porter. She appeared in the American premiere of Charles Strouse's A Whole Lotta Living, the award-winning Women@Work and the Off-Broadway revival of The Rothchilds.
Ricky Russell has been seen in Forever Plaid (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego); The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (European tour); Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and Scrooge.
Stephen Zinnato played leading roles in the York's productions of By Jupiter and Me & Juliet as well as creating the role of Hugh Hendon in Off-Broadway's The Prince and the Pauper. In addition to playing Father in the post-Broadway Equity national tour of Ragtime, he plays Nolan on "Guiding Light."
Morgan helmed the York premieres Clark Gesner's The Jello Is Always Red, the Australian musical Prodigal and the John Latouche revue, Taking a Chance on Love. He staged the Carbonell Award winning Falsettoland in Southern Florida.
McNabb has directed and choreographed productions of Chicago and West Side Story and choreographed the new musical,When Harry Met Sally, in Barcelona. On Broadway, he has been seen in The Phantom of the Opera, Dancin' and Me and My Girl.
Performances play the York's digs at the Theatre at Saint Peter's Church, 619 Lexington Avenue (at 54th Street). There are no performances Dec. 25 or Jan. 1, 2003, and no matinees Dec. 8 and 14. For ($22.50-$45) ticket information, call Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200.
The York Theatre Company is dedicated to creating and producing new musicals and preserving under-appreciated musicals from the past.