'Cole' delivers with a garland of melodies

DOWNEY - Out of the more than 40 Cole Porter songs sung individually or by the chorus in "Cole," the latest offering by the Downey Civic Light Opera that runs through March 4, 10 I can say I know by heart and at least half of them I can easily hum to all the way through. I'm pressing but I may even know two-thirds of the latter's lyrics.At any rate, Cole Porter's songs have become part of my existence, along with those of Irving Berlin's and Gershwin's and Rodgers and Hart's, and, I'm sure those of a few others. I can't imagine how anyone born in my generation can not like "I've Got You Under My Skin," or "Begin the Beguine," or "Night and Day," or "I Love Paris," or "True Love"? They filled the airwaves and orchestras played them back when, warming lovers' hearts, and enhancing people's lives. Well, these songs are sung and danced to-and wonderfully, too-in "Cole." Porter's compositions such as "You Do Something To Me," "What is This Thing Called Love?" and "Wunderbar" sometimes reflect alternating periods of success and failure in his songwriting career, times of happiness with his wife, Linda, by his side and times of sadness, too, such as when a horseback riding accident "substantially crippled" him and left him "in constant pain for the rest of his life." But it's undeniable they have a timeless quality, befitting someone who learned the violin at age 6, the piano at 8, and wrote his first operetta at 10, then getting an education at Yale and Harvard, then further sowing his oats in Paris, and eventually composing hundreds and hundreds of tunes during a generally comfortable, even luxurious, existence (his grandfather-in-law was the richest man in Indiana where he was born). After his wife's death in 1954, Porter's injuries from his accident eventually led to the amputation of his leg circa 1958. It is said he never wrote another song after this. The sets in "Cole" are simple but the choreography is dynamic, at times refreshingly innovative. It's amazing how executive producer Marsha Moode has accomplished this, with the spare props at her disposal, but the whole "Cole" production is more than the sum of its parts. She has in the meantime assembled a superb cast of performers, most of them repeaters, a lot in ensemble roles, who all deserve every plaudit from the appreciative audience by their professionalism, their enthusiasm, their evident artistry. It's a shame the show's opening Friday night didn't draw the usual large crowd. The garland of Cole Porter songs the cast wove Friday night, stringing together hit tune after hit tune seemingly without end, is something the oldies but goodies crowd must experience. It may even be worthwhile for some of the younger crowd to find out why the old standards have such a powerful hold on their elderly folks. Either way, it's a good show. It's truly wunderbar.

********** Published: February 23, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 45