High Society

Previewed 30 April 2015, Opened 14 May 2015, Closed 22 August 2015 at the Old Vic Theatre in London

A major revival of the Cole Porter musical High Society in London directed by Maria Friedman and staged in-the-round.

Wealthy, elegant and priggish, Tracy Lord is about to embark on her second marriage to a successful but stuffy businessman. Her first husband, notorious socialite Dexter Haven, reappears attempting to win back his wife. Meanwhile, little-known tabloid reporter Mike Konner, also falls for Tracy while covering her nuptials for his magazine. Tracy must choose between the three men. Familiar to most from the classic 1950's film starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, this classic musical features such memorable Cole Porter tunes 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire', 'True Love', 'I Love Paris', 'You're Sensational' and 'Swell Party'. In this revival the director Maria Friedman has updated the stage show to the late 1950's.

The cast features Kate Fleetwood as 'Tracy Lord' along with Barbara Flynn as 'Margaret Lord', Jamie Parker as 'Mike Connor', Rupert Young as 'C.K. Dexter Haven', Ellie Bamber as 'Dinah Lord' and Annabel Scholey as 'Liz Imbrie'. The band will feature jazz pianist Joe Stilgoe. This production is directed by Maria Friedman with choreography by Nathan M Wright, designs by Tom Pye, lighting by Peter Mumford, sound by Simon Baker and musical direction by Theo Jamieson. This is the last production at the Old Vic Theatre under the Artistic Directorship of Kevin Spacey before Matthew Warchus takes over.

When this production opened at the Old Vic Theatre in May 2015, Michael Billington in the Guardian said: "I can't imagine this Cole Porter musical being much better done than it is here... It all makes a festive climax to Kevin Spacey's tenure of the Old Vic Theatre." "What a treat this show is," hailed Holly Williams in the Independent. "The in-the-round staging lends a rare intimacy for a musical of this pomp, helping the effervescent cast and swinging, superb band sweep the audience up with them." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard highlighted that "the highlight is a stunning rendition of Cole Porter's refreshingly naughty Let's Misbehave ó with twirling, swooping choreography by Nathan M Wright." Serena Davies in the Daily Telegraph wrote: "Well, Did You Evah? A show that looked destined for a dutiful three stars come interval time turns itself round so entirely in the second half that Kevin Spacey's final piece of programming for the Old Vic may prove one of the hits of the summer... Maria Friedman knows a thing or two about delivering barn-storming song-and-dance." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times commented that "Maria Friedman's move from musical theatre performance into direction is only enhanced by her touch here... she takes care to ensure a constant yet unforced vivacity onstage... and Nathan Wright's choreography is synchronised without looking drilled." Although Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail thought that "this show is not perfect," adding that he "was unconvinced by the decision to stage it in the round," he concluded by saying: "All hail an uncomplicated, super show." Neil Norman in the Daily Express highlighed that "Maria Friedman creates a party on stage at the Old Vic for her rollicking production... The prancing ensemble of butlers and maids is a delight, bringing a flourish to the set changes as well as the dance sequences." Dominic Maxwell in the Times described as being an "elegant rendition of Cole Porterís romantic comedy musical."

Although best known as an award-winning musical theatre actress, Maria Friedman made her West End directing debut with an acclaimed award-winning revival of Stephen Sondheim's musical Merrily We Roll Along (Menier Chocolate Factory 2012, transferred Harold Pinter Theatre 2013). Kate Fleetwood West End credits including the role of 'Lady Macbeth' opposite Patrick Stewart in the title role of Rupert Goold's revival of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth(Gielgud Theatre 2007). Jamie Parker's West End credits include playing 'Guildenstern' in Trevor Nunn's revival of Tom Stoppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Haymarket Theatre 2011).

"Kevin Spacey's adieu as the artistic director of the Old Vic is a champagne revival of High Society... While sticking to the Fifties setting, freewheeling director Maria Friedman does things differently, and throws in a few extra Cole Porter numbers just for fun. Played in the round, on a shiny Art Deco set with orchestras on two balconies... the show is a bit squished, but neither space nor time is wasted in sensational all-singing, all-dancing scene changes. The swimming pool is just a projection but when Tracy dips her finger in it, it ripples. Well, did you evah? It's just one of those things, one of those crazy things that gives this bubbly production added fizz." The Mail on Sunday

High Society has music and lyrics by Cole Porter with book by Arthur Kopit and additional lyrics by Susan Birkenhead. It is based on the play The Philadelphia Story by Philip Barry, which was staged here at the Old Vic in 2005 by Jerry Zaks, and the motion picture High Society.

At the performances on 23 May and 13 June the audience is invited to 'Dress to Impress!' - at these performances audience members are encouraged to don their glad rags and join us in their best garb – accompanied by live piano music - it's sure to be a 'swellegant' evening!

High Society in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 30 April 2015, opened on 14 May 2015 and closed on 22 August 2015.


High Society

Previewed 1 October 2005, opened 10 October 2005, closed 21 January 2006 at the Shaftesbury Theatre

This production comes to the Shaftesbury Theatre following a sell-out summer season at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre in London from July to September 2003 during which demand for tickets ran so high that the season was extended by two weeks for the first time in the theatre's 71 year history, Ian Talbot's production of High Society was nominated for two Laurence Olivier Awards and then toured the UK to phenomenal success the following year.

The cast stars Jerry Hall as 'Mrs Lord' with Graham Bickley, Katherine Kingsley, Ria Jones and Paul Robinson. Unfortunately on 2 November 2005 it was announced that Jerry Hall had to withdraw from the production due to illness - she said: "It is with great sadness that I have to leave the cast of High Society as I am suffering from Epstein Bar Virus (glandular fever) which I first fell ill with last year. My doctor has said that I must have a period of complete rest," adding that "I have had such a wonderful experience with a great cast and I wish them all the very best." The producers said: "We are very sorry. We wish her a speedy recovery and hope that we may see her back with us in the New Year." Unfortunately Jerry Hall did not return to the production before it closed in January 2006.

"This enchanting show takes the stage with all Porter's wit and charm and sophistication. Ian Talbot's masterful production is agile, swaggering and superbly funny, with a nice ironic edge. Paul Farnsworth has done an elegant set, and his costumes are splendid, except for Tracy's clothes, which look a bit too showbizzy; but Katherine Kingsley, like a beautiful blonde eagle, plays her with a cool elegance all of her own... The star is Jerry Hall, playing Tracy's mother and looking not a day older than her daughter. Hers is a ravishing performance, poised and polished, humorous and languorous, sly and sexy. One of the best musical revivals I've seen in years and years." The Sunday Times

"Ian Talbot's production is staged with some flair on Paul Farnsworth's handsome set of sculpted box hedging and white fencing... Katherine Kingsley, an animated show-jumping Barbie, her peroxide blonde mane sexily restrained by a hairnet, radiates pony-club proficiency rather than thoroughbred class. Graham Bickley plays Dexter as the ex without the X factor... The more accomplished Paul Robinson and Ria Jones, as the journalists hoping to dish the dirt, do their darnedest to sing and dance up a storm, but lack the requisite star quality to make this show the sensational, swell party it should be." The Mail on Sunday

"There's nothing wrong with this show that Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly couldn't fix. But, as they're all dead, it's unlikely they can help. So Ian Talbot's production - a hit at the Open Air Theatre at Regents Park two years ago - must struggle on without the aid of the stars of the 1956 movie. And struggle it will. What fizzed outside on balmy summer evenings has gone flat inside four walls - and fiddling with Cole Porter's lyrics and tampering with the script doesn't help keep the champagne bubbly. Based on the play The Philadelphia Story, High Society tells of the turmoil surrounding rich bitch Tracy Lord's impending marriage to stiff-upper-drip George Kittredge. Ex-husband Dexter Haven is making pre-nuptial mischief, the bride's father is in disgrace and a reporter and photographer from a scandal mag are hovering. Mick Jagger's ex, Jerry Hall gets star billing, despite being cast only as Tracy's sweet-natured mother. Katherine Kingsley sings well as Tracy, Graham Bickley's Dexter is affable if bland, and song and dance man Paul Robinson displays an easy charm as reporter Mike Connor. But only Ria Jones, as feisty snapper Liz Imbrie, and Royston Kean as Tracy's uncle, inject any real exhilaration into what should be a feelgood show but ends up feel-average. Real high society would be more fun." The Sun

High Society in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre previewed from 1 October 2005, opened on 10 October 2005 and closed on 21 January 2006