It began as a stage play The Philadelphia Story in 1939 which 16 years later became the Cole Porter musical film re-titled High Society. After San Francisco try-out's in 1997 the stage musical hit Broadway in 1998. More recently in the West End the show ran a limited run at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2005 but now a major revival production directed by Anna Linstrum is touring the UK and Ireland.
The story set in the 1930's follows Tracy Lord (Sophie Bould) whose wedding plans are interrupted by the arrival of her ex-husband Dexter Haven (Michael Praed) and handsome journalist Mike Connor (Daniel Boys). Ultimately she must choose between three very different men on a course of self-discovery.
The opening scene cleverly combines Francis O'Connor's beautiful set (complete with Susie the Seagull) and Andrew Wright's expert choreography. The initial musical number 'High Society' which involves Tracy Lord discreetly changing outfits sets the impressive slickness of the show. The ensemble of Butlers and Housemaids work well to provide vocals and provide the seamless transitions between scenes. The ensemble consist of Jill Armour, John Bowles, Steven Butler, Matt Corner, Keiron Crook, Zoë Doana, Carol Heffernan, Lucy James, Ashley Knight, Anthony McGill, Ben Redfern and Rachel Spurrell.
Alex Young as photographer Liz Imbrie makes the perfect companion for Daniel Boys' Mike Connor. Their version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is a highlight of the first act as is Daniel Boys' second act number You're Sensational which received well deserved rapturous applause.
Star of Dynasty Michael Praed impresses as Dexter Haven who has an interesting selection of songs to tackle. The numbers for Dexter seem less inspired than for some of the other characters but it is the duet with Sophie Bould, True Love that showcases his true talent.
Sophie Bould was given a particularly warm welcome, a local girl who before becoming professional had appeared at the theatre whilst in South Staffordshire Operatics Society who were all in to pledge support. Sophie oozes class, and commands the stage with her natural elegance and suitability for the role of Tracy Lord. Also as impressive as Dinah Lord is 17 year old Katie Lee who has already starred in three West End musicals - Les Misérables, Matilda and Billy Elliot - the musical where she perhaps honed her pointe skills that she performs with ease in this show. Most definitely a leading star of the future.
Marylin Cutts as Margaret Lord, Teddy Kempner as Uncle Willie and Craig Pinder as Seth Lord all showcase experience as they expertly make up the maturer members of the principal cast.
I must once more refer back to the set which is exceptional, particularly for a touring production. There are no major set changes but a repositioning of furniture and doorways whilst spinning on a revolve is spectacular and sophisticated use of the space. The kitchen scene which involves a tap routine to Well, Did You Evah? is most definitely the choreographic highlight of the show that also includes a Stomp like use of pots and pans to re-inforce the rhythm and accents.
High Society is one of the must-see revival productions this season - it is an explosion of glitz, glamour and talent. The show runs at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until 2nd March and you can book tickets here.
High Society also plays at the Birmingham Hippodrome from 14th - 18th May. Tickets can be booked here.
Promotional video for the tour:
Photographs © Pamela Raith