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[[boxed]]For this High Society, the Cole Porter estate threw open its portfolio of show songs[[/boxed]]

Barry's sophistication, set Lord's descent into the human race to song - nine of them - for a 1956 movie remake, High Society, and because Louis Armstrong was available to jazz up the title tune, the setting was shifted to Newport at festival high-tide - but an authentic Philadelphian was still hired to Lord over proceedings: Grace Kelly, singing, sorta (at least one whole stanza of Porter's Oscar-nominated "True Love").

Since Errico's range goes well beyond eight musical bars, the Porter estate threw open its portfolio of show songs from everything except Anything Goes and Kiss Me, Kate. Then, adapter Kopit, director Christopher Renshaw, producer Lauren Mitchell (along with Robert Gailus, Hal Luftig, Richard Samson, Dodger Endemol Theatricals in association with Bill Haber) and musical director Paul Gemignani hit the archives, scrumptiously plucking those Porter pearls that amplified and animated all of the Lords, including the enlarged roles of Tracy's estranged parents (Daniel Gerroll and Lisa Banes) and her skirt-chasing Uncle Willie (John McMartin).

Following icons is not just Errico's minefield. It has also been a risky proposition for the suitors who've gathered before the Tracy Lord pedestal, and the story line is still a matter of her ferreting out the true love. Here that question is, merrily, a multiple choice among C.K. Dexter Haven (the torch-toting Husband No. 1), George Kittredge (the nouveau riche stuffed shirt with whom she is now altar bound) and Mike Connor (the scandal-sheet scribe giving her serious second thoughts about charging down the aisle again).

"Yes, it's daunting," allows Daniel McDonald, who (after Joseph Cotten, Cary Grant and Bing Crosby) is the next-up Dexter, "but what was I supposed to do? Not do the role?" He says a big help in overcoming this heritage hurdle has been Robert Neff Williams, who "does dialect and speech at Juilliard, and he's great about finding the period, finding the rhythm, finding the diction that actually raises you to a different class. That, in itself, helps." 

[[image - color photograph of Daniel Gerroll and Lisa Banes co-star as Tracy Lord's estranged parents.  photograph by STARLA SMITH]]

Stephen Bogardus has just as intimidating a role - the smitten newshound - trailing Van Heflin, an Oscar-winning James Stewart and Frank Sinatra in the part: "I'm not going to be doing any Jimmy Stewart - the only thing we share is an alma mater [Princeton]. I hate the idea of living up to people's expectations. We're our own thing, and I'm having a ball with just that." 

In contrast to the above, Marc Kudisch has less of a sweat playing the also-run Kittredge - and not entirely because Frank Fenton, John Howard and John Lund came before him. "George was not a character who created a great impression," he says, "but now he has been reconstructed as a very specific type in the context of all these people - the new American icon coming through in the late thirties, the young Democrat who eventually becomes the Republican - so I'm hoping I surprise people." All that, and the one song he's allowed is the perfect anthem for his character: "I Worship You," cut from Fifty Million Frenchmen before it got to Broadway and now the new Porter tune in town. 

If High Society meets its high expectations, chances are excellent that Kudisch's Kittredge will have a lot of company worshipping at the altar of Tracy Lord.

Lou Diamond Phillips successfully undertook Yul Brynner's signature role in the revival of this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. 




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