This musical farce with book by Arthur Kopit and music and lyrics by Cole Porter is full of romance, family drama and amusing situations. The musical is based on the movie musical of the same name, which starred Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Grace Kelly, as well as the play turned movie ‘The Philadelphia Story’. The film version starred Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn. With legends like those to live up to, the cast of The Winnipesaukee Playhouse production of ‘High Society’ took on the challenge and in some ways delivered.
For those of you not familiar with the aforementioned films or the musical, the story takes place over one weekend at the Oyster Bay estate of the Lord family in 1938. Tracy Lord, a wealthy socialite, is set to marry, for the second time, but her wedding weekend doesn’t turn out the way she expected it to. When unplanned guests arrive things begin to unravel and confusion and conflict ensue. Personalities clash, lies are told, truths are discovered and temptations have Tracy second-guessing her choice of second-husband.
Because the musical is a farce, it is meant to be light and fun with a sizeable dose of zaniness. Keeping that mind, the cast seemed to embrace those qualities and go all in on having a good time. While I did not care for some of the character choices made by some actors, there were a few admirable performances that stood out amongst the rest. First, the most consistent while also being the youngest actor in the cast was Sophie Pankhurst who played Dinah Lord, the precocious younger sister of Tracy. Her portrayal of the smart and conniving Dinah was superb. With a sweet demeanor and snappy comebacks, she quickly became an audience favorite.
The most believable and genuinely charismatic pair in the show was writer Mike Connor, played by TJ Lamando, and photographer Liz Imbrie, played by Rebecca Tucker. Their mannerisms, vocal inflections and facial expressions were balanced just right. Their attraction to one another, while at times a bit one sided, was sweet and sincere. Lamando made Mike such a likable guy and his performance of “You’re Sensational” was charming and strongly sung. Tucker’s heartfelt and emotional rendition of “He’s A Right Guy” was perfection and easily my favorite of the night. They were a true delight to watch.
C. K. Dexter Haven was portrayed by Jay Wilkinson, who was quite believable as the attractive and wealthy yacht designer. He seemed very comfortable in his character’s skin and his vocals were wonderfully showcased in numbers such as “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and “Just One Of Those Things”. The cast also includes Haley Jones as Tracy Samantha Lord, Sebastian Ryder as Mother Lord, Richard Brundage as Seth Lord, Mark Stephen Woods as Uncle Willie, Wayne Shuker as George Kittredge, John-Michael Breen, Thomas Doelger and Chris Hendricks as Butlers and Sandia Ahlers, Kelley Davies and Candice Shedd-Thompson as Maids.
This production is directed by Clayton Phillips, music directed by Judy Hayward, choreographed by Bryan Knowlton and features a seven-piece orchestra. Though the orchestra was often too loud during the first act, they balanced better with the vocalists during the second half. The set design by Melissa Shakun featured two rotating walls that transformed the estate from the spacious indoors to the vast grounds outdoors. Unfortunately, some overhead lights reflected off the glass panes in the four doors of the set which sent a bit of a glare into the eyes of some audience members. Despite a few strong performances, many others were mediocre and in the end fell flat. So while this production was enjoyed by the audience overall, it was not one of my favorites. ©
The show runs just about two and a half hours including intermission. It plays at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse until July 15th with performances Mondays through Saturdays at 7:30pm, 2pm Matinees on July 6th & July 10th. No Sunday performances or performances on Monday, July 3rd and Tuesday, July 4th. Tickets range from $20-$34. For additional information and tickets visit www.winnipesaukeeplayhouse.org
Special Events from the Education Department:
Wednesday, July 5th- Talk-back: Following the performance, you’re invited for an informal discussion with the cast and creative team.
Tuesday, July 11th at 6pm – Symposium: Pre-show presentation offering insight into the play.
Photo Credit: The Cast of 'High Society'. Photo Courtesy The Winnipesaukee Playhouse.
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