‘High Society’ at SBCC

Cole Porter Songs Fitted to a Philadelphia Story

Ben Crop

Presented by The Theatre Group at SBCC. At SBCC’s Garvin Theatre, Fri., July 14. Plays through July 29.

Cole Porter was the epitome of 1930s sophistication — the kind of wit who could compose brilliant, syncopated popular music while rhyming “Waldorf salad” with “a Berlin ballad,” or “an old Dutch master” with “Mrs. Astor.” No one before or since can touch him for simultaneously celebrating and ragging on popular culture’s obsession with wealth and celebrity. In High Society, the musical comedy based on his music that’s now playing at SBCC, Porter’s delicious lyric sensibility is on full display, with Katherine Bottoms as dissolute heiress Tracy Lord and an excellent Santa Barbara newcomer, Darren Bluestone, as her ex-husband, Dexter Haven.

Sean Jackson shows off his singing voice and his hoofing as Tracy’s drunk Uncle Willie, and Pacomio Sun digs in to the closest the cast comes to an outlaw figure, the rather opportunistic journalist Macaulay “Mike” Connor. Alex Coleman has fun with George Ketteridge, the wealthy wet-blanket fiancé role, and Claire Perales-Duckworth does a fine job with Dinah, Tracy’s precocious younger sister. David Potter conducts a seven-piece orchestra that’s onstage with the players but partially hidden behind a transparent scrim. Triply removed from its sources in the musical theater and screwball comedies of the 1930s, the show lacks the coherent feeling that makes a true Cole Porter original like Anything Goes a classic, but as an excuse for these actors to “misbehave,” it will do nicely.

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