The Los Angeles premiere of Sean Hayden's musical, Confidentially, Cole opens at the Tiffany Theatre on Oct. 21 after three days of previews, which are now underway.
Directed by Matt Lenz, Cole was inspired by Porter's "closeted double life" as a homosexual. As reported earlier, the show explores the contradictions and challenges of the gay lifestyle by dramatically reinterpreting the life and work of legendary songwriter Cole Porter in that context. Hayden has worked with Lenz on the show as well as with John Lasiter, who worked on David Copperfield's "Dreams and Nightmares."
Hayden's play uses Porter's "Love for Sale," "Let's Misbehave," and "Night and Day," as well as the lesser-known "Rub Your Lamp" (from Let's Face It) and "To Love or Not to Love" (from Rosalie) to explore poignant issues that continue to resonate today.
"We'll be doing three weeks in Los Angeles in October," Hayden told Playbill On-Line in August. "We had a great opportunity with Metropolitan Entertainment to do this, which will be the first time Confidentially, Cole is staged in California and my first time in L.A. as well."
Hayden plays two characters in Cole, one a contemporary New Yorker and the other a Cafe Society gigolo working between the late '40s and early '50s. "The gigolo character is the kind of person Porter might have had contact with when he was in Los Angeles during those years," Hayden suggests. "Cole was not 'out' publicly, but he was out as part of an insider group. The show gives the audience the chance to be part of that insider group." Confidentially, Cole makes a bold statement in redefining the context of one of the greatest catalogs in American popular song. Hayden speaks to this issue with confidence and a working knowledge and respect for Porter that gives credence to his theory that the composer was "able to write on two levels and have it be equally satisfying."
"The show gives the audience the chance to see the true context," Hayden said. "These songs are always interpreted by women, yet what we've known is that he would have been around the male version of those types of people first. So, we've kind of turned it inside out. I don't think we've corrupted it, but we have gone to the core of the matter and turned it inside out so that we're seeing what's at the core of the music."
Hayden suggests that this unusual and admittedly bold take on the music is rewarding. "Once you go in it's amazing how illuminating these lyrics are and how the melodies are haunting and how well they match the pathos in the lyrics. We are so accustom to these lounge versions of [waxing loungetic] 'Night an' Daaaaay...' while there really is this yearning and burning emotion and it's really passionate and convicted stuff. Take a song like "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," which is considered a great American heterosexual love song, and still is, but there is another dimension behind that. Porter was close to a soldier named Nelson Barclift, and this was said to have been their song."
Any possible controversy with Confidentially, Cole notwithstanding, Hayden has gone ahead with tour dates in Miami and Los Angeles, after a world premiere run at the Triad Theatre in New York City. "One of the biggest endorsements I could ever have for the show came from [actress] Paula Laurence, who knew Porter," Hayden said. "And she loved it."
Confidentially, Cole runs through Nov. 5 at the Tiffany Theatre in Los Angeles. For information on the show call (310) 289-2999.
-- By Murdoch McBride