American songwriter Cole Porter wrote the lovely lyrics to numerous songs including Anything Goes and I Get A Kick Out Of You, but whether he wrote them for his wife, Linda, or a gay lover has never been an issue for LESLEY STONES.
Yet the production Night And Day by Cape Town City Ballet, featuring danced versions of his songs, makes Porter’s sexuality its main theme.
Cole, danced by Johnny Bovang, is obviously camp from the moment he first fingers his piano, which is the only prop on a stage enhanced by a glitzy criss-cross backdrop. The troupe dances to more than 20 of his songs, filling the stage with an array of colourful costumes and moves ranging from classical ballet to a Cabaret-style dancing-with-chairs scene.
Porter’s music is made for dancing with its sensuous rhythms and witty lyrics, but the show produced and directed by Robin van Wyk disappoints for a few reasons. Firstly, the songs are all recorded, and the versions we hear are the old, scratchy genuine vinyl type. I had expected a crooner or two in the corner, not only to give us something else to look at, but to make this a more intimate theatrical evening rather than leave the audience with a sense at times that they’re watching a ballet troupe rehearsal.
Since the music is being given a modern interpretation through dance, a less dated soundtrack would have complemented the style more effectively. We do have a strolling saxophonist who makes a few appearances, adding a welcome extra dimension to the show.
Then there’s the issue of his sexuality, which I felt was overplayed to an the extent of feeling a little poncy. The idea was clearly to portray what a conflicted man Porter was, married and feted by women, but inwardly yearning for men. Yet the longing looks he casts off-stage after his lover departs become too heavy handed and effete.
Routines performed by the large cast of about two-dozen lithe girls and beautiful men often fill the stage with colour and glamour, and the dancing is pretty and sensual without being groundbreaking. Some of the more intimate duets are also highly watchable.
Many of Porter’s lyrics and tunes were rather louche for their day, and that’s played up nicely in spicy numbers like Let’s Misbehave, while Miss Otis Regrets was for me an unknown song and one of the most memorable sets.
Yet several songs such as Love for Sale are now clouded with a sad undercurrent of yearning and unhappiness heightened by the way Porter’s sexuality is overlaid on the production. DM
Night And Day runs at Montecasino Theatre until 13 May.
Photos: Pat Bromilow-Downing