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In Love Again

[whitespace] Cole
Pat Kirk

It's De-Lovely: Ian Knauer (left), Ellen Grosso and Carl Danielsen hoof it up in 'Cole.'

San José Rep revives 'Cole' musical

By Heather Zimmerman

WITH THIS SPRIGHTLY revival of Cole, the popular revue of Cole Porter songs staged by San José Repertory Theatre in 1992, the Rep conjures up the kind of appealing tongue-in-cheek sophistication that you'd expect from a tribute to the fellow who coined such terms as "swellegant" and "de-lovely." But these words have a deliberately faux sound to them, which also sums up a rather forced silliness in this production. The six cast members are all undeniably vocal talents; whether singing solo or as an ensemble, their voices make for an excellent showcasing of Porter's music. And the actors' distinct stage presences, from Michelle E. Jordan's imperturbable elegance to Ellen Grosso's broad clowning, aptly represent the same blend of seemingly exclusive qualities that Porter's music also had.

The ensemble is at its tuneful best in company numbers like "It's De-Lovely," and throughout the show, narrator Carl Danielsen's polished, seemingly effortless piano playing does Porter's music--and persona--credit. Grosso's penchant for goofing works well in numbers that lend themselves to such antics, particularly her "inebriated" piano-climbing lament, "The Laziest Gal in Town." The show also capably handles more subtle comedy, such as Ian Knauer's charmingly smarmy "I'm a Gigolo."

At times, however, the production goes a little overboard in its quest for comic moments; unfortunately, the gimmicks in these instances end up overshadowing the music. Apparently liberally applying the philosophy of "Anything Goes" for that famous song, the cast hauls out the instruments for an entire marching band in what seemed more like a sort of bizarre keeping-up-with-the-Joneses competition than an illustration of that free-spirited philosophy. The problem is when going for laughs, not just anything (silly) goes. Despite some uneven moments, Cole is still an enjoyable romp and a generally apropos tribute that showcases the versatility of a beloved songwriter.

Cole plays Tuesday-Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 4:30 and 8:30pm, Sunday at 2 and 7pm and Wednesday (June 24) at noon through June 28 at the San José Repertory Theatre, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose. Tickets are $16-$32. (408/291-2255)

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From the June 18-24, 1998 issue of Metro.

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