(Honorary Patron: Vanessa Redgrave CBE)

The latest show presented by the Grayshott Stagers, from the 13th to the 16th April 2011, was a roller-coaster ride through the life of Cole Porter.

Picture 1 "Red Hot & Cole" is a fast moving two-act musical which follows the life of the irrepressible Cole Porter (with a strong performance by Richard White in the lead.) In strong voices and with limber dancing this cast carries us through his early days in Indiana and Europe, his friendships, his marriage to Linda, his dazzling musical career, and even though the trials and traumas of his horrific riding accident which crippled him for the rest of his life.

Picture 2 The musical opens with Elsa Maxwell (Rachel Perkins in fine form) giving a party for Cole surrounded by his larger-than-life friends and associates. We meet, amongst others, Dorothy Parker (Melanie Tyrrell) Noel Coward (wittily played by Ellis Nicholls), the delectable cabaret singer and Parisian nightclub owner "Bricktop" (danced and played by Susie Dean, but due to laryngitis, the first night's performance was sung by director Heather Legat), and Irene Castle (played by Laura Musco, who also choreographed many of the numbers). The stage set evokes the 1920's with its dazzling costumes and coifs (beautifully created by Pauleen Dowsett and Pauline Harries).

Picture 3 Cole's life was seen as the talented, fun loving but wayward, and sexually ambiguous man that he was. His marriage to the beautiful and wealthy socialite, Linda (Sara Rowe is well cast in this role) was a marriage of convenience but mutual love, a love for the high life and good times as expatriate American bright young things in Europe between the wars. They appeared made for each other, but all was not as it seemed - a cue if ever there was for the prophetic Porter song Always True to You (in my Fashion).

Picture 4 The success of this show was due in part to the hard working, disciplined efforts of the players, but also to the talents of director Heather Legat and musical director Robert Gillman. Together they skillfully presented a show full of pizzazz, nostalgia, sensitivity and sometimes even laugh-out-loud humour.

Picture 5 In the main the solos were well crafted, especially Miss Otis Regrets, poignantly sung by Stagers veteran Peter Gardner. The other solos and ensembles were jazzy and full of life but it was the duets that stole the show, in particular True Love, sung by Richard White and Rachel Perkins. With such a large pool of songs to choose from (Cole wrote nearly a thousand), it is inevitable that the original score, as conceived by Randy Strawderman and arranged by Dougee Zeno, missed some old standards such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire and High Society Calypso. Alas, while Cole lived by his own lyrics of Anything Goes, we mortals in the audience, unlike that Poor Young Millionaire, can't have everything.

Picture 6 Regular followers of the Stagers will have been pleased to spot new faces in the cast, Graham Gale and Ian Wilson-Soppitt in particular. The excellent cast line up was completed with Jennifer Charters, John Hilder and David Landau. Your reviewer understands that the Grayshott Stagers are always on the lookout for new talent. It was gratifying to see that even with the main road from the A3 into Grayshott closed, attendance was good.

Picture 7 By the time that this review hits the newspapers the 4-day run of this production will be over. All is not lost, however, for the Grayshott Stagers are an active group who put on several plays throughout the year, including musical reviews and supper evenings. Catch their next one; details are on their website www.grayshottstagers.co.uk.

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Updated: 3rd May 2011