A clever and satisfying production of the musical best known as The Philadelphia Story
Easy on the eye and easy on the ears – despite a plot which exalts the uninhibited flaunting of wealth – this is a witty and effervescent revival of the Cole Porter favourite.
High Society hits the stage running. A tightly drilled, black-and-white clad ensemble of servants set the scene from the off, creating the rich man’s world Oyster Bay, on this, Tracy Lord’s second wedding day. And as Tracy, Sophie Bauld delivers a big, sparkling performance that makes the role her own.
Which is this production’s biggest asset. It is hard to step away from the shadow of Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart who stared in the 1940 move The Philadelphia Story, from which the musical draws its basic structure and core music. Except it was all rewritten and updated in the late 90s, so it is song, rather than character, driven.
The conceit is that Tracy is about to marry the dull lump of a man, George Kittredge (Keiron Crook). Her playboy first husband Dexter Haven (Michael Praed) – with whom alcohol-fuelled fights were the norm – turns up on the big day together with a pair of tabloid journalists, who think they are incognito, but are in reality known to all.
Dexter is, naturally, a big hit with the rest of the family – from little sister Dinah to the womanising alcoholic Uncle Willie (a brilliant Teddy Kempner who is the pattern for timing and delivery).
It’s not just about big numbers and fab choreography, however. It’s about their delivery and construction. Amid the glitz and clever, minimal staging, Bauld does enough to make you care about Tracy. Alex Young and Daniel Boys add a route into this stratospheric world, as the two journalists who get sucked in, but ultimately find their own love.
A clever and satisfying production.
King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 30 Apr–Sat 4 May.