With His New York Chic, and English Gags, Cole Porter Is Perfect for Modern Audiences
Millard, Rosie, New Statesman (1996)
High summer, and where better to soak up culture than in an open-air auditorium? The outdoor theatre at Regent's Park had such a rush at the box office for its annual musical, that for the first time, it has extended the run until mid-September. That decision was made before the heatwave. Now the heat is on, people are queueing up to sit on the theatre's grassy banks. Anything is preferable to the West End's fetid, non-air-conditioned stalls.
The show everyone is grabbing tickets to see is Cole Porter's slightly awkward rewrite of The Philadelphia Story. High Society, from the early days of the classic American musical, is by no means a newcomer to the canon, yet as one settles down at Regent's Park in the late-afternoon warmth, it somehow seems very modern. High Society is more a patchwork quilt of songs than a silken sheet of effortless numbers; it is not Porter at his best, but this production is warm and funny, with a belting performance from Annette McLaughin in the lead role. And with its cast of journalists, celebrities, ageing Lotharios, tricky ex-husbands and housekeeping staff, the show captures the 21st-century zeitgeist. No one has a "proper" jog; there's a plenty of drugs (in the form of booze), sex and flaunting of designer clothes. It could have been written last year.
With hacks pulling off undercover tricks to gatecrash the musical's nuptial of the year, the spectre of the Zeta-Jones/Douglas wedding takes a spooky bow. Had he ever given one thought to the future, Porter probably would have imagined us flying around in personal helicopters or eating entire meals in one pill. But for us Hello! Devotees, life is rather as he painted it. …