What Is This Thing Called Cole? – FORGOTTEN PORTER (II)

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our six-week series on Cole Porter musicals that we’ve yet to cover here on That’s Entertainment! Given that Porter is my first musical theatre obsession and my favorite Broadway composer, we’ve covered quite a lot of his work, but these six shows, spanning from 1928 to 1946, are making their Musical Theatre Monday debuts. We began last week with Porter’s first Broadway hitParis (1928). Today, a show that was written after Paris, but made its official debut earlier…

 

II. La Revue Des Ambassadeurs (Opened: 05/20/28)

fish

Porter wrote a complete original score for a revue at the famous Parisian nightclub, The Ambassadeurs Cafe, at the behest of manager Edmund Sayog. Performed by American entertainers and sung in English, the show included Buster and John West, Evelyn Hoey, Mary Leigh, Carter Wardell, Morton Downey, Katheryn Ray, Frances Gershwin, the Pearson Brothers, Eleanor Shaler, Basil Howes, Muriel Harrisson, and the Three Eddies. Fred Waring’s Orchestra provided the accompaniment. In celebration of his sister, George Gershwin himself was at the piano on opening night. After several weeks, Clifton Webb and Dorothy Dickson were added to the cast, and within a few weeks, Sayog paired down the cast even further — retaining less than half of the aforementioned entertainers.

After its closing, La Revue des Ambassadeurs faded into obscurity. It wasn’t until 2012 when a concert production based on the recently unearthed piano-vocal score was mounted in Paris (and broadcast on the radio in 2013). A second discovery in 2014 of the original Waring arrangements led to the nightclub revue’s long-awaited American debut at Town Hall in June of 2014. (This concert, which I personally had the pleasure of attending, is supposed to be released on CD soon. I’ll keep you updated.) Porter’s glorious score, filled with sly rhythms and memorable lyrics was a treat to hear in full, especially with those incredibly hot orchestrations. Two of the evenings biggest revelations, which I admittedly had heard in that 2013 radio broadcast — but not as originally arranged, were “Boulevard Break,” introduced by Frances Gershwin and the Pearson Brothers, and the grand finale, “Fountain Of Youth,” led by Buster West. The former (above) comes from a live audio of the 2014 concert (apologies for the evening’s poor audio quality), while the latter (below) is from the 2013 radio broadcast.

Another surprising delight was the sentimental “In A Moorish Garden,” introduced by Morton Downey. The rendition below comes from the 2014 concert.

One of the most well known numbers from the score, in addition to “Looking At You,” which was added for Webb and Dickson, and will be featured in next week’s post on Wake Up And Dream (1929), is “Pilot Me,” which was recorded by Bobby Short back in the ’70s. Hear it below.

I’ve always had a fondness for “The Lost Liberty Blues,” which I’d first heard on the cast recording of the Mermaid Theatre Revue’s Cole.

For an example of classic Porter, here’s “Fish,” from the 2013 broadcast, originally performed by Carter Wardell.

And we’ll close today’s post with a number that was heard for the first time last year since probably 1929, the elusive opening number, “Keep Moving.” It’s a hot one!

 

 

Come back next Monday for another Cole Porter musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the fourth season of Rhoda!

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