Marblehead Little Theatre’s production of “Gershwin/Porter, Who Could Ask For Anything More” opened to a packed house on Friday, July 28, and will play through August 6.
The MLT production team is especially excited to bring the show back nine years after its original 2014 debut. Producer Dayle Persons and director Betty Lautner commented that the show was incredibly popular in its first staging, and they’ve been excited to introduce a refreshed version to old fans and a new generation of theatergoers alike. Along with writer and director Anne Marylin Lucas, Persons and Lautner have worked together on more than 10 reviews of composers.
Following the typical structure of a review, “Gershwin/Porter, Who Could Ask For Anything More” tells the story of the composers’ lives through their autobiographical narrators, Cole Porter (Kenny Meehan) and George Gershwin (Andrew Hankinson), interspersed with performances of their greatest hits. Members of the ensemble frequently take the stage for solo and group singing alike, dressed in glamorous 1930s attire. A space is set aside for the band, which includes a keyboard, saxophone, bass and drums. The stage is set with two pianos, one for each lead, as shining stars and music notes float overhead.
In their efforts to revamp the musical for new audiences, the production team included additional songs and updated some of the dialogue between Gershwin and Porter to add more information. Although the cast is full of new faces, many of the original actors — such as Ron Amon, Jennifer Hearly and John Archer — returned for the show’s revival.
When asked about their favorite part of the production process, Persons and Lautner agreed that the camaraderie of community theater and the team aspect really makes a show worthwhile.
“It’s always a group effort in these shows,” said Persons. “Everyone pulls their weight in some way.”
She also spoke of how honored they were to see so many hands go up when the audience was asked if anyone had seen the 2014 production.
So what is it about Gershwin and Porter that captivates the imagination? Porter, a wealthy party boy from a well-known Indiana family, and George ‘Jacob’ Gershwin, a hardworking New Yorker of Jewish Eastern European ancestry, lived lives as different as their musical talents were compatible. Although the two contemporaries worked together on multiple projects, the show focuses more on honoring their individual styles through their works, from Porter’s witty and lighthearted numbers such as “I Love Paris,” “Begin the Beguine” and “Let’s Do It!”, to Gershwin’s sentimental and sweet-sounding “I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You” and “Summertime.”
The show’s Broadway-inspired choreography and band accompaniment follows a more traditional musical theater-style rendition of the composers’ songs, as opposed to a jazzy style adopted in covers by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald that may sound more familiar.
Coming up at MLT, a production of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” which will be directed by cast member and dance captain of “Gershwin/Porter,” Honorah Tinti.
Tickets for “Gershwin/Porter: Who Could Ask For Anything More” are available at mltlive.org.