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

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the conclusion 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, made their Musical Theatre Monday debuts. In this series we’ve covered Paris (1928), La Revue Des Ambassadeurs (1928), Wake Up And Dream (1929), Gay Divorce (1932), and Seven Lively Arts (1944). Today…

 

VI. Around The World (05/31/46 – 08/03/46)

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Producer Orson Welles commissioned Cole Porter to write the score for his lavish musical adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic novel. The three-hour spectacle, funded by Mike Todd, William Goetz, and Alexander Korda, included 34 scenes, a cast of 70, four mechanical elephants, and a live circus sequence. (Not to mention silent film clips directed by Welles himself!) Although the show was reportedly a visual delight, the cost of production was simply too much to make any kind of profit, and the show quickly became a notorious flop in the careers of both Welles and Porter, whose work was equally derided as inferior — lacking in both pathos and depth. Given the extravagance of the production, it is most likely that we’ll never know the extent to which Welles went in establishing the piece’s well documented opulence.

Fortunately, Porter’s underpraised score remains more accessible. In addition to a half hour excerpt with the original cast that aired on the Mercury Summer Theatre On The Air (subscribe and comment below for access to this recording), original cast member Larry Laurence (before he was credited as Enzo Stuarti) recorded four of Porter’s songs in ’46. For a while, this and a few tracks on the Ben Bagley albums were the only things available. Finally, to the delight of many a musical theatre aficionado, Lost Musicals in London gave the piece a rare concert revival, which later enjoyed a brief run in New York last year. (Subscribe and comment below for access to a live audio from a performance of this production.) In examining the score through these various sources, it’s evident that, although far from Porter’s best work, it’s decidedly foolish to write off these efforts completely. Let me take the rest of this post to show you why, starting with a clip from a Cole Porter BBC concert broadcast of the ensemble’s “There He Goes, Mr. Phileas Fogg,” heard above.

Up next is one of my favorite second tier Porter ballads, “Should I Tell You Love You?” The recording above is by Sandy Stewart from a Bagley album. (Hear Larry Laurence’s rendition here.)

Several other tunes gain distinction for being surprisingly catchy. Here’s Laurence above with “If You Smile At Me,” and below with the jubilant “Look What I Found.”

And finally, from the aforementioned 2014 concert audio, here’s the true neglected gem from the score, “Pipe Dreaming.” (Be sure to track down Laurence’s recording as well.)

 

 

Come back next Monday for another forgotten musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the first two seasons of Three’s Company!

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12 thoughts on “What Is This Thing Called Cole? – FORGOTTEN PORTER (VI)

  1. No collaboration of Orson Welles and Cole Porter could fail to be interesting, even if it wasn’t a commercial success! Apparently the staging was quite inventive, which is easy to believe, given the talent involved. I’d love to have the recordings you mentioned. (You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?) Thanks for shining a light on this show, which is usually passed over (too) quickly in works about Cole.

  2. Hello Jackson. I keep on following this particular thread (and everything else related to Broadway). Would be nice to hear the 2014 production,the mercury recording has a not so good sound quality.

  3. Dear Jackson I am a subscriber for almost a year, with this very address. I am answering you from the last post I received from you. I also use another address [redacted] maybe I wrote it down in any of the comments and that is what is confusing you. Thanks again.

  4. Hello Jackson, I’d be very interested in hearing the Lost Musicals broadcast of Around the World. Thanks, Roland

  5. as usual a great blog. i am learning so much about early broadway. would like a copy of the london concert revival and the mercury summer theater version. am glad its summer and theres nothing good on tv. iam reading you daily blogs plus catching up on you older ones. keep up the good work . bob k

  6. hi jackson-love this rare cole treat of a show-great post. would appreciate audios for the london concert revival and the mercury summar theare version thanks!

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