Delightful Coward-Porter show could be Carmel tradition

Reviewed by Natalie Plotkin

“Another opening, another show” go the lyrics by one of the two featured composers whose music and words shine brightly and unforgettably in Layne Littlepage’s latest offering being performed at the Carl Cherry Center for the Arts.

This time the delightful performer decided to expend her charm and elegant vocalism on a loving, intellectually sensitive and well-designed show, “Noel and Cole: The Wit and Music of Noel Coward and Cole Porter,” which made for a charming program that appears to be developing as an annual Carmel tradition.

Coward and Porter were contemporaries. Coward (1899-1973), and Englishman who eventually transitioned to the United States, was a theatrical and musical giant throughout most of the first half of the 20th century.

Porter (1891-1964) an American born in Indiana who loved Paris, while not as prolific as Coward, was active in creating unforgettable entertainments for the American stage and screen. The two men were friends and admired each other and their works.

Littlepage creates a lovely figure onstage. She is active and alive, moving with grace and studied sophistication against a simply arranged setting. Her choice of material from the wealth of melodies and ideas seems calculated to delight and entertain her appreciative audience.

Alternating songs, some well-loved, others a joy to become familiar with, made the evening a series of treats. Since Littlepage dispensed with a printed program, it became an evening of pleasant surprises as well. Coward’s “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” was witty and slightly sardonic. Porter’s “I Concentrate on You” is a lovely ballad and was delivered with feeling and understanding.

A Coward operetta medley of “Where are the Songs We Sung,” “I’ll Follow MySecret Heart” and the sardonic “The Stately Homes of England” contrasted very neatly with a Porter medley “Were Thine That Special Face?’ “At Long Last Love” and “Let’s Do It.”

No program would be complete without Coward’s “Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington,” and Littlepage did a cutting-edge job in her delivery of the song. Then she contrasted its irony with his “If Love Were All.”

A travel medley combining songs by both men was an enjoyable mixture. Porter’s “Let’s Fly Away,” Coward’s “I Travel Alone” and his very funny “Why Do the Wrong People Travel?” were all audience pleasers, yet not well-known.

Guest artist Cliff Berry joined Littlepage to make a charming duet of Porter’s “You’re the Top,” which was then reprised with humorous lyrics by Coward that were silly, but fun.

Then there was another flavorful Littlepage-Berry duet of the very clever “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate,” which really got a sparkling presentation.

Porter’s also unfamiliar “Can-Can” concluded the evening with a zesty performance of its clever lyrics.

Pianist Lucy Faridany was a stalwart and sensitive accompanist through a demanding program, which required sensitivity to mood changes and careful attention to balance with the vocalist. She was an expert addition to the evening’s entertainment.

As a promise for the future, Littlepage’s encore was Noel Coward’s “I’ll See You Again."

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