Once upon a time there was a sassy little stage comedy called “The Philadelphia Story.” It was written specifically for the great Katherine Hepburn in 1939, who went on to play the role on film—with a little help from Cary Grant and James Stewart.
Then, in 1956, MGM had another go at the material, with a few choice Cole Porter tunes and a cast including Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby. ‘High Society’ was the result.
Yet two more decades passed before the Story came full circle, sending the musical version back to the stage. Here we find it, a 20th century-spanning delight packed with some of Porter’s best songs, often from other musicals: “True Love,” “You’re Sensational,” “I Love Paris,” “Riding High,” “Let’s Misbehave,” and “She’s Got That Thing,” just to mention a few from an embarrassment of riches.
So what’s it all about? Old money, mansions, fiancees, exes, journalists, sailboats, champagne, lechery—well, let’s just call is a delightful, traditional musical comedy expertly staged by Robert Egizio and Stage Door Players. It’s just the ticket to cool off a hot summer. The cast, musicians, and crew are uniformly excellent; it’s hard to imagine anyone who won’t be high on their society.
Galen Crawley, as Tracy, must carry the heart of the play and she succeeds, with good comic chops and an Ethel Merman-sized voice. Jeremy Wood is Dexter, the first husband with second thoughts. Wood is the archetypal leading man with a fine tenor voice.
Caitlin Smith (Liz) and Jeremy Varner (Mike) are pesky reporters who have great chemistry and can lay down a melodic line with style. Christopher Lewis is humorous as the humorless fiance, and young Hope Valls is a revelation as Tracy’s little sister. She has the spunk and spark to upstage her elders; remember her name.
We couldn’t get enough of Robert Wayne as the lovable Uncle Willie. Wayne can turn his performance on a dime (to pathos) in a touching second act moment. Kathleen McCook and George Deavours return to Stage Door (married yet again) as Tracy’s parents.
One of the great delights of the play is, of all things, the scene transitioning, musically and comically handled by the servants, who couldn’t be more appealing: maids Caleigh Allen (Polly) and Kelly Chapin Schmidt (Annie); footmen Anthony Owen (Chester) and Trey Getz (Stanley).
Chuck Welcome ingenious set is enhanced by Michael Magursky’s lighting design and Dan Bauman’s sound design. Jen MacQueen’s choreography, Jim Alford’s costumes and George Deavours wig/hairstyle designs all complete the picture for this lovely weekend on Oyster Bay in the 1930s.
Performances of “High Society” continue through Aug. 5, with shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and on Sunday afternoons at 2:30 p.m. Individual tickets are $26 for adults, $24 for senior adults, and $22 for students. Stage Door Players is located in the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center at 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road.