The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings








Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review
High Society

"I thought it was for life but the judge gave me a full pardon." — Tracy
High Society
Cast in "Let's Misbehave" (Photo: Tristram Kenton)
After her superb production of Merrily We Roll Along for the Menier, there are high expectations for Maria Friedman's production of High Society Arthur Kopit, the book's author, hints in the programme that this London production is more to his taste than the 1998 version on Broadway. "Well, I think this will be the first time that people will actually see this show as it should be seen."

The first big change is the show's opening from pianist Theo Jamieson who invites the audience to call out tunes and then, ignoring those that aren't a planned part of his repertoire, plays a musical medley. After quite a long musical interlude which undoubtedly shows his prowess, I was left wondering whether one of the cast had been delayed and they were filling time.

The black and white dressed servants enter and busy themselves with household preparations. This first scene, now set in 1958, underlines the class divide in the Land of the Free as the moneyed Lords lead their spoilt lives in Oyster Bay on the Long Island shore instead of Philadelphia. The staff sing "Behold the rich of Oyster Bay, on this their daughter's wedding day," from Susan Birkenhead's lyrics for "High Society" written for the 1998 production.

Tracy Lord (Kate Fleetwood) enters wearing two pheasants and carrying a shotgun. She personifies assertive American womanhood: here intelligent, wealthy and underemployed. The house is tastefully decorated with thin statues by Giacometti and a Faberge egg. We meet the Lord family, Jeff Rawle as Uncle Willie and Barbara Flynn as Mother Lord and the effervescent Ellie Bamber as Tracy's younger sister Dinah.

Tracy's ex-husband CK Dexter Haven (a handsome Rupert Young) and Dinah sing "Little One" as they renew their acquaintance. The arrival of Jamie Parker's photographer and journalist Liz (Annabel Scholey) pretending to be relatives cues "Who Wants to be a Millionnaire?" contrasting the life styles of the rich and famous with their own.

Dinah and Tracy sing "I Love Paris" one of the inserted songs and it doesn't really fit well even with Dinah singing it as a parody with a deep voice and a part of the pretence for the gate crashing press. The bridegroom George Kittredge (Richard Grieve) in reply to Dexter's "Once Upon a Time" sings "I Worship You" before Tracy responds with "Once Upon A Time" and Dexter and Tracy end Act One on the overly romantic "True Love".

The too loud sound, both for singing voices and spoken word may be a casualty of the reconfigured Old Vic. If there is one place when you need the full width of the stage it's in a musical with full choreography. The small intimate circle didn't do it for me, especially as, in the first half, the centre of the stage is largely taken up by a lake for the True Love boat to sail on in the closing number. The other problem sitting on the aisle was being blinded as a member of the cast made their entrance with a full spotlight but behind me so I couldn't see who was entering and was dazzled by the lighting spill.

After the interval, Theo Jamieson and Joe Stilgoe compete on twin grand pianos. The party gets going with brilliant choreography from Nathan M Wright for "Well, Did You Evah?" as each character shows their mettle. Dexter is charm and sex appeal. The staff have metamorphosed into wedding guests but despite the grosgrain and net frocks, the closeness allows us to recognize the servants in new garb which destroys the illusion of class divide.

Dinah dances a balletic turn and has fun on the piano but Omari Douglas' tap dance on the piano is stellar. The music segues into "Let's Misbehave" and the choreography gets more and more loose and wild in this long dance number.

Mike Connor makes a play for Tracy who is worse the wear for alcohol and Jamie Parker delights in a singing role. The next morning Kate Fleetwood is superb as the hung over stumbling bride as she shows her skill at comic acting. In casting actors instead of musical specialists, Friedman scores with great, believable performances from actors who can sing.

We hear that it was booze which broke up Dexter and Tracy's marriage. "Just One of Those Things" is inserted to be sung by Dexter and Joe, a lovely soulful ballad but not of the storyline here. Dexter sings "Samantha" explained as Tracy's second name before the reprise of "True Love" and there's a happily ever after ending except for poor old George Kittredge. .

For Elyse Sommer's review of the 1998 production in New York go here.

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
High Society
Book: Arthur Kopit
Words and music by Cole Porter
Additional Lyrics by Susan Birkenhead
Director: Maria Friedman
Choreographer: Nathan M Wright

Starring: Kate Fleetwood, Rupert Young, Barbara Flynn, Jamie Parker, Ellie Bamber, Richard Grieve, Annabel Scholey, Jeff Rawle, Theo Jamieson, Joe Stilgoe
With: John Brannoch, Ricky Butt, Omari Douglas, Claire Doyle, Chris Ellis-Stanton, Leon Kay, Sammy Kelly, Paul Kemble, Zak Nemorin, Katherine Pearson, Christopher Ravenscroft, Philippa Stefani
Designer: Tom Pye
Lighting: Peter Mumford
Sound: Simon Baker
Orchestrator and Dance Arrangements: Chris Walker
Musical Director: Theo Jamieson
Video: Finn Ross
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval
Box Office 0844 871 7628
Booking to 22nd August 2015
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 18th May 2015 performance at the Old Vic, Waterloo Road London SE1 8NB (Rail/Tube: Waterloo)
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • "High Society/Ridin' High" - Tracy and Staff
  • "Throwing a Ball Tonight" - RevMother Lord, Tracy, Uncle Willie, Dinah and Staff
  • "Little One" - Dexter and Dinah
  • "Who Wants To Be a Millionnaire?" - Liz, Mike and Staff
  • "I Love Paris" - Dinah and Tracy
  • "She's Got That Thing" - Uncle Willie, Dexter and Staff
  • "Once Upon a Time" - Dexter
  • "I Worship You" - George
  • "Once Upon a Time" - Tracy
  • "True Love" - Dexter and Tracy
Act Two
  • "Well did You Evah?" - Dexter, Mike, Joe, the Lords, Guests and Staff
  • "Let's Misbehave" - Tracy, Mike, Liz, Mother Lord, Seth, Uncle Willie, George and Staff
  • "Just One of Those Things " - Dexter and Joe
  • "You're Sensational" - Mike
  • "Say It With Gin" - Uncle Willie
  • "Ridin' High (reprise) - Mother Lord
  • "It's Alright With Me " - Tracy
  • "He's a Right Guy" - Liz
  • "Samantha" - Dexter
  • "True Love (reprise)" - Dexter and Tracy
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of High Society
  • I disagree with the review of High Society
  • The review made me eager to see High Society
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2015, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from