The Technicolor glow of this splendidly realized revival hasn’t dimmed a bit as it approaches its second anniversary on Broadway, which will soon, alas, be followed by its closing Dec. 30. The show’s two new leads, Burke Moses and Carolee Carmello, bring an infectious vigor to their performances as a pair of theatrical monsters making love and war onstage and off, and both are in splendid voice. Audiences just catching the show in the final months of its run will have no reason to regret that they waited so long.
Both newcomers happily embrace the raucous comic tone of Michael Blakemore’s production, with Carmello’s air of mock-refinement just occasionally revealing a glimmer of sensitivity underneath Lilli Vanessi’s shoulder-padded Dior armor. Like her predecessor Marin Mazzie, Carmello has a heavenly lyric soprano, a gilded trumpet of a voice that beautifully serves Cole Porter’s score, a pinnacle of the American musical theater. She also has deliciously precise diction that clarifies every nuance of his lyrical wit.
Moses, best known as the original Gaston in Broadway’s “Beauty and the Beast,” seems here, too, much like a cartoon brought to full-blooded life — a ferocious chipmunk, say. But the outsized mugging is in keeping with the show’s knockabout spirit. Moses colors his baritone with a drippy unctuousness that winkingly sends up the pomposity of the hammy Fred Graham. He also sings “Where Is the Life That Late I Led” with such exuberant gusto that it becomes a major vaudevillian tour de force.
By contrast, in the secondary roles of Lois Lane and Bill Calhoun, newcomers Janine LaManna (“Seussical”) and Kevin Neil McCready are capable but disappointingly bland. They seem unable to find the punchy comic flavor in these characters; LaManna’s “Always True to You in My Fashion,” for instance, is lacking the necessary brassy sparkle, and as a result seems to go on forever.
Then again, you could happily listen to Porter’s gem-packed score forever, and it is still being performed with uncommon wit and style by the orchestra under musical director Paul Gemignani, in orchestrations by Don Sebesky that playfully mix mock madrigals with Broadway brass.