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A Cole Porter Songbook
by Mary Shen Barnidge

Playwright: music By Cole Porter, arranged by Aaron Benham. At: Theo Ubique at the No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave. Tickets: 800-595-4849; Article Link Here ; $29-$59. Runs through: July 21

Most Cole Porter showcases are dominated by his romantic ballads, their selection geared toward nostalgic senior couples unaware that the songwriter providing the soundtrack for their youthful memories was anything but happily het like themselves—an impression supported by his long and contented marriage to a likewise agreeable woman. This beacon in the history of American musical theater was a star with many facets, however, reflecting many sensibilities.

If you're one of those just discovering that the composer of "Anything Goes" was gay, you might suddenly find yourself delving the familiar lyrics for double entendres and hidden references. (Okay, you guys, no giggling during "You're The Top.") While this Theo Ubique revue features some male-on-male by-play in the ballroom choreography for "Experiment," what is more apparent is that the privileged world that Porter inhabited endowed him with a cheerfully gender-unrestricted view of human behavior. The evening's roster may include golden-age hum-alongs like "It's De-lovely" and "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," but it also highlights Porter's trademark irreverent—and often ambisexual—lyrics.

This eclectic approach is continued in Aaron Benham's musical arrangements: Who would have thought to weave "It's Bad For Me" together with "You Do Something to Me" and "I've Got You Under My Skin" into a Baroque-harmony chorale? Or sample from such diverse sources as carousel-organ, player piano and La Marseilles? Or resurrect a nearly forgotten "list song" from a 1958 television special? David Heimann's dances also draw from a variety of styles, ranging from Vernon Castle one-steps to jitterbug to Charleston—all in a single number yet!—as well as Can-Cans, country hoe-downs and Viennese waltzes.

None of this would matter if the quartet assembled by director Fred Anzevino didn't have the versatility required to deliver a sizzling "Too Darn Hot" and a ditty rhyming "orgy" with "Lucrezia Borgy." Jill Sesso vamps like a sugar-frosted dominatrix for "Let's Misbehave," Christopher Logan shows off some Donald O'Connor acrobatics in "They Couldn't Compare to You," while Sierra Naomi and William Lucas bring vocal muscle to generate the necessary soar for Porter's melodic climaxes. Anyway, who can resist a "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" employing three costume changes? Oh, and did I mention that flowers are distributed to lucky playgoers in the course of the show? As the maestro says, "Let's Do It"—soon.

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