Just when I think Indiana’s Bicentennial has slowed down, DeKalb High School comes roaring through with their marvelous show, “Cole.” With a large red circle on Nov. 5 on my calendar, I knew that I would consider it a date! I phoned my friend, Mary, and we made plans!
The night was so beautiful as I stepped out of my Jeep that I had to take a photo of the November waxing moon before going into the high school. As we entered the make-shift box office (a table filled with tickets in a file box) it was obvious the night would be a sellout. The woman was taking orders on the phone while handing out tickets and taking our money. It was just $5 a ticket. What a deal for a Saturday night!
Since I had ordered the tickets ahead of time, we had the opportunity to sit next to the stage sharing the table with singers. We were escorted to our table by a young man in a tuxedo who handed us our programs with a professional, “Enjoy the show!” I was already in love with the production! The gym had been transformed into a Cabaret night club with the stage in the middle. An old piano was on the stage with a blue light and old fashioned microphones adorned each corner. All that was missing was the blue smoke from cigarettes and cigars and perhaps the clinking of martini glasses from the bar. As it was we bought KitKats and bottled water!
Promptly at 7:30 p.m., looking as dapper as a New York director, Kent Johnson took to the center of the stage to welcome everyone. As he spoke the cast of singers and dancers came in through the side doors. The young men were also in tuxedos and the young ladies in short glittery silver dresses. Two settled in at our table. We all nodded and kept on listening to Kent speak. I had to smile to myself as he spoke of convincing the students to do a show about Cole Porter. “Who?” they all asked. Then convincing them to do a show in the round and then mingling with the audience during the show.
With special thanks to his wife, Shelley, and former students, Josh Sassanella and Audria Carter, he bowed and left the stage. Thunderous applause followed and preceded Hunter Grate as he took his place at the piano and the show began. With my program in front of me, I followed these young people on the journey of the life of Cole Porter as song after song, choreographed to perfection, entertained the audience.
I can’t begin to mention all of the cast, but a few stood out for me in the evening. Analyse Coutlee stole the show with her version of “Lost Liberty Blues.” With a quick change of clothes, Samantha Owsley and four couples, sang “I Love Paris in the Springtime.” It was beautifully done!
In between songs the narrations kept us informed of the life of Cole Porter. Porter was born in 1891 in Peru, Ind., thus letting us claim him as our own. His colorful life was marked by time at Yale and Paris where he lived a marvelous life with fabricated stories for the American press.
Too soon the first half ended with a full cast singing “Tomorrow.” Just as I was enjoying more KitKats and water, Kent Johnson came strolling over to chat at my table. I gushed over the show. Sometimes I am not sure everyone understands the hours and days and months of work that goes into a show such as this.
The second half began with new young people at our table, and this time the girls were in red sequined dresses. I know I sighed when Kamryn Moreland finished singing “In the Still of the Night,” one of my all-time favorite Porter songs. As professional and lovely as the songs were, I wasn’t prepared for the rollicking rendition of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” by Malek Brown, Jacob Samuelson and Colin Becker. It was marvelous.
The evening ended with their last song, “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.” I really didn’t want to leave, but the gym lights were turned on and they had already started to strike the show.
No matter what, the magic spell of a Cole Porter evening could not be broken.
Thank you, DeKalb High School, for a show well done!