Anne Hailes says: High Society

20130529-215730.jpgThe Lord family have style, they are the epitome of ‘High Society‘. It’s just sad they are so featherbrained! A beautiful house with a jetty stretching out into the sea, money to burn, servants by the bucketful and very little sense but it all makes for an enjoyable musical based on ‘The Philadelphia Story’ with music and lyrics by Cole Porter.

The family are in a state of flux, a ball for 700 and a society wedding next day. It’s all systems go. Then they hear that an undercover reporter (Daniel Boys) and photographer (Alex Young) have arrived from the trashy magazine Spy and decide to give them a story worth writing. In fact they don’t need to pretend that life is drinking champagne and dressing in designer gowns, incidentally all costumes for this show are hand made.

The story that unfolds is better than anything anyone could make up.

This touring cast have already played in Wales, in Dublin, all over England and in Edinburgh usually with two shows a day, and people think an actors life is a dawdle! But in the Opera House this week ‘High Society’ is as fresh as paint with a strong cast lead by Michael Praed as C Dexter Haven and Sophie Bould as Tracey Samantha Lord, his ex-wife. He arrives on the eve of her marriage to George Kittredge (Keiron Crook) described by Tracey’s younger sister Dinah (Katie Lee) as the last of the Neanderthals. Deep down the family agree, Mrs. Lord (Marilyn Cutts) and Uncle Willie (Teddy Kempner) still favour Dexter, a handsome man of the world. The audience warmed to Teddy Kempner, not very tall and not very slim but a lovely mover with a gravelly voice who thinks every problem is solved by drinking gin.

The songs are well known, ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’, ‘True Love’, ‘Just One of those Things’, and the big finale number, ‘I love you Samantha’, sensitively sung by the very smooth Michael Praed.

It’s a big company of 20 actors and five production crew and a set that takes two days to build. The staging is very imaginative, the maids and manservants dance and sing with style as they make the scenery changes.

The first act is wordy and as one woman remarked to me, “I thought it was a musical.” She could have been in no doubt when it came to the second act. The opening zinged along featuring most of the cast in a splendid tap routine in the kitchen where wedding preparations were held up as Tracey plies everyone with champagne.

When I talked to Michel Praed during a break in rehearsals, he was sucking anti nicotine sweets; he gave up smoking six years ago for the sake of his voice and keeps trim with a 20 minute exercise routine three times a week. Michael was studying at London Guildhall School of Music and Drama when he was offered a part in a play in Southampton and at the same time he was invited to perform before Prince Charles in the Guildhall. His head of drama wanted him to stay for the Royal Performance but, at 20 years of age, he left the school, took the professional offer and has had a most successful career since including playing Prince Michael in ‘Dynasty’. Daniel Boys, who has the best voice, is well used to appreciative audiences as he took part in Lloyd Webber’s TV show ‘Any Dream Will Do’ when viewing figures reached eight million.

20130529-215850.jpgMy abiding memory is of C Dexter Haven who is most persuading as he looks into the audience and we become involved as he tries to win back his ex-wife – does he? Of course he does.

The final number is romantic and beautifully lit. There were a few tearful faces at the happy ending and plenty of soppy grins. Sometimes the audience can be as entertaining as the show!

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Review by Anne Hailes.

Post Author: Belfast Times

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