“Love, Noel: The Letters and Songs of Noel Coward”
At The Theatre with Audrey Linden
Barry Day’s reprise tribute to Noel Coward tells about the life of Noel Coward through letters he wrote to his mother, and friends and their responses interspersed with some of his most well-known songs. The show at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is in the Lovelace Studio Theatre which gives us an intimate nightclub setting complete with wait staff who serve drinks and appetizers. It was perfect for the cabaret act starring Harry Groener and Sharon Lawrence. Musical director, and pianist, Gerald Sternbach was playing the memorable “What Is This Thing Called Love?” as the show opened. And, love of music and people is what drove Coward. He was “simply a phenomenon: actor, singer, writer, and a composer”.
The dapper Groener appeared onstage in a black velvet jacket, bow tie, black vest, tuxedo pants and shiny black patent leather shoes. As a finishing touch, he had a white rose in his lapel. Sharon Lawrence was resplendent in a silvery gray chiffon art deco gown. Both set the stage for a time past as together they went back in time to when Coward was a precocious little boy, already taken to performing in 1911.
Sharon Lawrence gave us many of the lady friends, singers, celebrities and divas who were close to Noel Coward. “He collected people and was avidly collected by them.” She gave us her interpretation of the strong women who were in his life as Esmae Winn, Lynn Fontaine, Gertrude Lawrence, Mary Martin, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo,writers Virginia Wolf and Edith Sitwell, Edna Ferber and the unforgettable actress, incomparable singer Elaine Stritch.
There were some twenty-one songs that were used to give us the life of Sir Noel Coward. The show included the well-known “Mad About The Boy” which Sharon Lawrence sang as Gertrude Lawrence. Sharon Lawrence has a sweet voice and it was so suitable for the songs of the thirties and forties. But neither she nor Groener had quite the pizazz or vocal quality that made these old popular tunes of their day zing with star quality.
She donned a crisp, white shirt to sing as Elaine Stritch in ”Why Do the Wrong People Travel?” But the song lacked the oomph that the acerbic, gravelly voiced Stritch had. I heard Ms. ELaineStritch sing her signature song in her one woman show, “At Liberty” and no one could belt out that song the way Elaine Stirtch or “Stritchy” as Coward called her did. It is a challenge to do a signature song that someone made famous. Groener spoke of his dear friend Marlene Dietrich and Lawrence donned a fur wrap and sang Dietrich’s well-known song, “Falling In Love Again” as she and Groener recounted how Yul Brunner had dumped Dietrich. The duo did a lovely medley of songs which included “Sail Away”. Act 1 ended with a rousing rendition by Groener of the witty and delightful “Mrs. Worthington”. “Please don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington”. The song came alive and this was a great number to end Act 1 with. Well done! Groener sold this song and performed it with the wit intended.
Act 2 opened on a high note with Lawrence and Groener singing ‘Why Must the Show Go On”. There was such a fun bit with Lawrence as a fan who simply gushes and prattles on and on and on. The two were both excellent, and the number brought many laughs. And, Lawrence’s “Nina” from Argentina had me in stitches. What a funny song and it was so well acted! “I’ll See You Again” and “I’ll Remember Her” were in memory of Gertrude Lawrence who had passed while Coward was away. He read of her death in the evening paper.
There was a reprise of “If Love Were All” and “Sail Away” and the show ended with ‘The Party’s Over”. Then the audience joined in on “I’ll See You Again”. The show was a lovely sentimental journey which gave us a look into the life of Sir Noel Coward who said of himself that he had “a talent to amuse”. An interviewer had asked Noel Coward if he could sum up his life in one word, what would it be? “Love”. Love of songs and people. If you want a lovely escape into another time, enjoy the lyrics and wit of Noel Coward songs, and feel like you are in a nightclub, go see “Love, Noel”.
“Love, Noel” runs until December 21st at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts at 9390 Santa Monica Blvd, in Beverly Hills, 90210. It runs in tandem with “Into the Woods”. For tickets and show times, call 310-746-4000 or go on line to www.thewallis.org
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,” “Wendy’s” , “Shimmer” commercial, Spike T V, etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL and IMPROV COMEDY WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills. To register, call 310-285-6850. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. Her next ON CAMERA class starts Thursday, January 8th, 2015. Enrollment in December is advised as class fills with 12 students. For more information, contact Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org