High Society is a musical based on the 1956 Hollywood movie starring Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly, which in turn is based on The Philadelphia Story by Phillip Barry. With songs by Cole Porter and a story focused on romance, class, and scandal, this musical is one of the most loved of its age.
Directed by Helen Dallimore, with musical direction by Daryl Wallis and an all star cast, High Society is set to be another huge success in a growing line of successes at the Hayes. Amy Lehpamer (Tracy Lord), Bert LaBonté (CK Dexter Haven), Bobby Fox and Virginia Gay make up the stellar principal cast, but the ensemble members are no less acclaimed. We chatted to the ‘elders’ of the cast (as they titled themselves); Delia Hannah (Margaret Lord), Laurence Coy (Uncle Willie) and Scott Irwin (George Kittredge), as they transferred from rehearsal to stage earlier in the season.
On the rehearsal process and any ‘shenanigans’ that went on:
Scott Irwin: Most of this company, we all knew each other some way or another. So the first day of rehearsals was a bit like a reunion.
Laurence Coy: We sort of knew each other or had seen each other in things.
Delia Hannah: It’s that kind of company. We’ve all done a lot so we recognised each other’s work.
Scott: Everyday has been funny with this group.
Laurence: It’s a funny play, and Helen is a funny woman and she often is the leader of the shenanigans. So there are lots of giggles. I can’t think of one moment in particular…
Delia: Mouth Trumpet! Amy’s violin string broke and she had to do mouth trumpet instead, which she’s very good at.
Scott: Exceptional! It nearly made it into the show.
Laurence: The violin might get tossed in favour of mouth trumpet.
On working with the creative team and stellar cast:
Laurence: Everybody’s really good at what they do.
Scott: It’s been awesome. Helen’s opened stuff up to the room because between the group someone always has a solution.
Laurence: A few of us have done a lot of shows. So it’s been great the way Helen’s done that. She’s very democratic. It’s felt light. It hasn’t been a heavy show. It’s not one of those ‘clone’ musicals with the stage on a grid.
Scott: This is the polar opposite of that particularly because it’s a re-imagining. We have a four piece jazz quartet, whereas it’s usually a big orchestra. In terms of being true to the era, this is musically more accurate.
Favourite Cole Porter song:
Delia: That’s really hard! I love Cole Porter.
Laurence: I’ve found some new ones in this show, like ‘Say it with Gin’. And Cole Porter is very funny and very witty.
Delia: I like the songs in this show particularly. ‘It’s Alright with me’ is a beautiful song.
Scott: There are some beautiful songs in this show. Cole Porter just sets up the lyrics so well.
Delia: You find out lots of story, it’s very story and character driven.
Scott: I was lucky enough to do Kiss Me Kate, and that show has some of his greatest work in it too. He’s just such a prolific writer. This show is chock full of beautiful songs.
Delia: The audience is in for a treat with this music.
Favourite old movie musical:
Delia: Singing in the rain.
Laurence: I really loved this one when I was a kid, because I had a huge crush on Grace Kelly.
Scott: How old is old? Because I would probably pick Rocky Horror. Or West Side Story? The first movie musical I saw was Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
Laurence: My first one was Sound of Music.
Scott: I was probably 25 before I knew the last 20 minutes of Sound of Music existed. Prior to video, my mum always said it was finished before it had, and so I never knew the last part existed.
On working at the Hayes Theatre Co:
Laurence: I love it because it’s so intimate.
Scott: I love it. If it were commercially viable to have a rep group, I would happily work here all year round. I love being able to rehearse in the space, I love the fact that stage door spills out into the bar because the mood and environment that you come into after the show is so great. What I really love about it, and I’ve seen pretty much everything that’s been here, it’s unrecognisable from show to show. You turn up and go, I wander what they’re going to do this time.
Laurence: It’s such a small audience and that’s why I love working here as an actor. The audience is in the palm of your hand.
Scott: And seeing things here is like a master class because you’re so close. On one hand, it’s quite confronting as an actor, but if you embrace it, it’s fantastic. It can be quite intimidating but so rewarding.
On the story:
Laurence: There is that thing before one gets married. It’s a big step. And this plays with that theme. And there’s that concept of marrying sensibly or marrying from the heart.
Delia: This is all about that. It’s a real conundrum that everyone goes through before they get married.
Laurence: Especially Tracy, she would like to marry below her station but there’s social pressure not to.
Delia: She’s marrying for the wrong reasons anyway.
Scott: Hey, I’m in the room!
Delia: It’s about who is your equal intellectually, but people change and you need to give people a chance to change. And Tracy learns that throughout the evening.
On why audiences should come see the show:
Laurence: It’s just a swell party.
Delia: It’s rich people having fun.
Scott: It’s like ‘meet the parents’ the musical, everything that can go wrong goes wrong.
It’s a stellar cast, it’s a beautiful book, it’s hilariously funny and some wonderful songs. It’s going to be quite special to watch the principal cast and with a jazz quartet in traditional 1930s style. It’s going to be quite different to any High Society anyone has seen before.
High Society is now sold out! (A lesson to be learned here: ALWAYS book ahead to see Hayes Theatre Co shows!)