The Ordway in St. Paul has been doing a small, intimate series in the McKnight theatre for the past two years called Broadway Songbook. Each time they focus on different composers or eras. Of the three I have seen, this one was my favorite which featured the music of Cole Porter. Throughout the show we have a tour guide, James Rocco, who is the writer and host and sings. Rocco, who seems to me a true showman, opened with “Let’s Misbehave”, a very clever number to start with.
Joining him was Raymond Berg on piano, four women and two men. Kersten Rodau is a standout. You can’t help but watch her due to her sincerity on stage. Her voice control and transitions are impeccable. I just adore watching her because she shines. Jennifer Baldwin Peden did a nice job with her song “The Physician”. I really liked the way she not only sang but acted out her part. It was very charming. I much prefered Joshua James Campbell’s lower register to his falsetto. His lower notes sit well in his voice and really allow him to give power to his ballads. Gary Briggle is a story teller. When he sings he fine tunes his ability to act which is nice. The first thing I noticed about Kirby Trymucha-Dureksy was her stunning dress. She sings songs that are somewhat the “ditsy, risque girl” numbers such as “Always True to You” which made me think she would be great at playing roles such as Ado Annie in “Oklahoma” or Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors”. Cole Porter’s music suited Regina Marie Williams much more than it did for the Sondheim series. She seemed more comfortable this time around.
The song choices were superb. I’m a fan of Cole Porter and it was nice to know the majority of the songs. Tunes from two of Porter’s main productions “Anything Goes” and “Kiss Me Kate” were featured throughout. They re-created “Don’t Fence Me In” which was a Bing Crosby and Andrew’s sisters version. The harmonies were lovely and it was a fun piece. My only complaint is I wish “Night & Day” had been a stand alone ballad instead of a company number.
Next season Broadway Songbook will feature: Musicals of the 1950’s, George Gershwin and then wrap up with Comden and Green. Since the McKnight is going through renovations, the performances will be on the main stage at the Ordway with the audience on stage with the performers. I pictured that “in the round” but who knows, I may just be dreaming that up! Learn more about the series and how to purchase tickets here: http://www.ordway.org/