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Mrs. Porter Has Her Moment in the Spotlight
Stevie Holland stars as Linda Thomas Porter in "Love, Linda: The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter." Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Love, Linda: The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter
Directed by Directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.
York Theatre Company
Saint Peter’s Church
East 54th Street and Lexington Ave.
From Dec. 3, 2013
Tickets: $67.50, 212-935-5820 or www.yorktheatre.org
Closes Jan. 5, 2014
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Dec. 7, 2013
The story of Cole Porter’s life has been told many times, in movies and biographies. But Stevie Holland and Gary Williams Friedman’s new musical, “Love, Linda: The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter,” directed by Richard Maltby, Jr., does something different. It tells the story from Porter’s wife’s point of view. Even better, it allows Linda to express herself through Porter’s delicious songs.
Holland, a notable jazz and cabaret performer, has the looks and stature to be a convincing Linda, the sophisticated, rich divorcee who captured Porter’s heart. She also has the right mood, style and phrasing to sing Porter’s sultry melodies and ironic lyrics.
Holland knows how to strike a sexy pose, whether she is sitting in a chair or standing by the grand piano that dominates the stage. The piano is played by Christopher McGovern, who also directs the bassist (Danny Weller) and drummer (Alex Wyatt). For the most part, the musicians do well by Porter, except for those occasions when they seem more concerned with the mood of the story than the style of the song.
The story of the Porters’ scandalous and extravagant lifestyle, in Paris, in New York City and in Hollywood (a town Linda detested) is well known. Speculation on how Linda felt about her husband’s male lovers has always run high. But in the two movies made about the couple, the 1946 “Night and Day,” and the somewhat more realistic “De-Lovely,” which came over fifty years later, myths often prevail over truth.
“Love, Linda” does not stray from the idea that Linda, abused in her first marriage and eager to inspire a creative genius, tolerated a second marriage with a man who adored her, was good to her and remained faithful (if only in his fashion) despite his side trips into the gay world. But it also shows the toll this took on her as a woman and a wife.
Holland sings many famous Porte songs: “I Love Paris,” “In the Still of the Night,” “Love for Sale,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” Of course, there will be those who will wonder why this or that song was not included. With a songwriter as prolific as Porter, this is inevitable.
Often the lights linger lovingly on a vase of roses placed on the piano. This is entirely fitting as after Linda’s death, Porter had an especially large hybrid pink rose created in her name. One likes to think Porter might be tickled pink to know that such a show has been created to honor his wife.
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