By Robert Simonson
and David Lefkowitz
31 Aug 1998
The Broadway musical adaptation of Cole Porter's movie musical High Society may have closed Aug. 30 (after 20 previews and 144 regular performances), but the music will live on.
Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, the days following closing, High Society records its cast album for DRG Records. A spokesman for DRG confirmed that the show's cast will reassemble for the recording, but could not say if the album will contain Cole Porter tunes cut from the show, such as "I Am Loved" and "I Worship You". The album's release date has not been solidified.
As for High Society's future life as a stage vehicle, production spokesperson Amy Jacobs (of the Boneau/Bryan-Brown office) said (Aug. 19), "Discussions are now underway about future incarnations" on the road or elsewhere, but she said she could not confirm dates, venues, cast or any other details.
Co-producer Lauren Mitchell issued the following statement when announcing the closing: "Working with the extraordinary cast, creative team and crew of High Society has been rewarding for all of us. It is always with regret that a show must close, but we are proud to have brought an unbeatable score to Broadway that has enchanted over 145,000 theatregoers since our first performance."
Mitchell left the door open for a national tour or subsequent production by adding, "Today, Broadway is the beginning of a show's life cycle. We look forward to a long and fruitful future."
High Society, which opened Apr. 27, 1998 at the St. James Theatre, is a stage adaptation of Porter's 1956 film musical, with a new book by Arthur Kopit, and some new lyrics by Susan Birkenhead. The production stars Melissa Errico, Daniel McDonald, Stephen Bogardus, John McMartin and Anna Kendrick. McMartin and Kendrick were nominated for 1998 Tony Awards.
The production tried out in San Francisco in 1997, and underwent several changes during a month of previews. Director Des McAnuff and choreographer Wayne Cilento were brought in to assist the show's Christopher Renshaw and Lar Lubovitch..
The film High Society was, in turn, based on Philip Barry's 1939 play The Philadelphia Story. The Broadway show includes most of the songs from the movie, along with various tunes selected from other Porter musicals, plus some trunk songs.
High Society tells the story of the humanization (through love) of a haughty, aristocratic woman, a part originally written specifically for Katharine Hepburn because Barry liked the (non-musical) movie she did of his play, Holiday. The result, The Philadelphia Story, opened at Broadway's Shubert March 28, 1939, and revitalized Hepburn's sagging career. The roles of the ex-hubby, reporter, photographer and philanderer were originated by Joseph Cotten, Van Heflin, Shirley Booth and Forrest Orr on stage and brought to film a year later by Cary Grant, James Stewart (who won an Oscar), Ruth Hussey and Roland Young; in Porter's film musical (which had Philadelphia's pre-princess, Grace Kelly, in the Hepburn role), those parts were essayed by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm and, in his last film, Louis Calhern.
The Broadway cast features Melissa Errico as Tracy; Daniel McDonald as her ex-husband, Dexter; John McMartin as Uncle Willie, Stephen Bogardus as reporter Macaulay Conner, Betsy Joslyn as the Cook, and Randy Graff as Conner's sidekick photographer, Liz Imbrie.
[A bit of trivia: the aforementioned McMartin appeared in another pastiched Cole Porter musical: Happy New Year, which ran Apr. 27 May 10, 1980. Based on a different Barry play Holiday, that show interpolated such Porter songs as "Ridin' High" "Once Upon A Time" (both in High Society) and "I Am Loved" (recently cut from Society).]
Designing High Society were Loy Arcenas (sets), Jane Greenwood (costumes; Judith Dolan did the costumes at ACT); and Tony Meola (sound). Christopher Akerlind did the lighting in San Francisco, but Howell Binkley lit the New York production.
Dodger Endemol Theatricals and Hal Luftig & Richard Samson produced the stage show with Robert Gailus & Lauren Mitchell, the former actress and debuting producer. (She originated the title role in Kiss of the Spider Woman when that musical premiered at SUNY Purchase in the spring of 1990.) Dodger Endemol has been very busy on Broadway the last few seasons. Productions include Titanic, 1776, Tommy, the Donna Murphy King and I and the Nathan Lane A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.