In brief: It’s de-lovely.
That made-up contraction by the inimitable Cole Porter is the perfect way to describe “Love, Linda: The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter,” on stage at MusicalFare Theatre to July 18.
Debbie Pappas gracefully commands the stunning set with her elegant portrayal of Linda Lee Thomas Porter, Porter’s wife of 35 years,where she tells her story in words and selections from her husband’s songbook. Pappas is every inch the Art Deco-era social maven, in a satiny, sparkly gown, triple strand of pearls, Revlon red lipstick and just-so curled bob. But oh it’s the music, whimsical (and sometimes plaintive) words, and her magnificent voice that make this experience so special. That’s what this show is: an experience where for an hour and five minutes, you’re immersed in a salon of storytelling and song in a period appropriate atmosphere.
The narrative is woven around the songs with compelling simplicity. Unlike the typical musical where the songs advance the storyline, the song selections – representing all parts of the Porter canon – mesh with her story in surprising ways. For example, she speaks of her husband’s homosexuality and his dalliances with a forthright and gentle hand, punctuated by “Let’s Be Buddies,” written for “Anything Goes.” Perhaps a bit wistful and not as jovial as the lyrics portend, it’s a poignant moment with a smile and a heart full of love.
The narrative hits the high (and low) notes of their marriage, their social circle, mutual love for Paris, her disdain for Hollywood, and his passion for the good life. It’s the music, that glorious music, with familiar tunes like “I Love Paris,” “Night and Day,” “Begin the Beguine” and a dozen more that is so grand. Theresa Quinn is behind the screen at the piano and her interpretation is lush as ever. Nick Corallo on drums is fun, albeit sometimes a distraction in the softer moments. Pappas’ voice is clear and powerful in each number, giving each song its own distinct tone and mood.
Chris Cavanagh created a beautiful set that’s reminiscent of a circa 1920 parlor. Images of Porter and production handbills fill two screens. The sisters Drozd – Kari and Susan – nail the attire and the look. Director Norman Sham is working with pure gold from the team to the material with his Wunderbar real-life wife. As the song says, “C’est Magnifique.”
“Love, Linda: The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter” runs an hour and five minutes with no intermission, to July 18. COVID protocols are in place and the audience seating is thoughtfully spaced. Visit www.musicalfare.com for tickets. It’s so good to be back.