Review: ‘A Marvelous Party: The Noel Coward Celebration’

A committee of adapters has sifted through 35 years of his output to produce a lighthearted romp featuring 33 Noel Coward tunes as well as myriad snatches of sketches, anecdotes, writings and musings.

Noel Coward was one of the most versatile and prolific talents of the 20th century. A committee of adapters has sifted through 35 years of his output to produce a lighthearted romp featuring 33 Coward tunes as well as myriad snatches of sketches, anecdotes, writings and musings. Ira Goldstein’s energetic staging, complemented by the flapper-esque choreography of Wilcox, impressively exudes a carefree party atmosphere that emphasizes Coward’s creative output, skipping lightly over biographical data.

Mark Anders, Carl Danielsen and Anna Lauris are a versatile vocal ensemble, flowing effortlessly through Coward’s melodies and perfectly in sync with his barbed wit. Also, Anders and Danielsen are accomplished pianists, often handling the accompaniment duties from matching onstage upright pianos. Danielsen and Lauris also demonstrate hoofing skills that enliven such lightweight musical-revue fare as “I Like America,” “Room With a View” and “Dance Little Lady.”

Nattily attired Anders and Danielsen project Coward-esque amusement at all things British, especially the upper crust. Anders is deliciously droll as he knifes his way though such cutting fare as “The Stately Homes of England,” “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” “I’ve Been to a Marvelous Party” and “There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner.” On a more serious note, Anders projects the gentility of “Matelot,” from Coward’s 1945 revue “Sigh No More.”

Danielsen handles the more lowbrow song-and-dance fodder, including “London Is a Little Bit of Alright,” “What Ho! Mrs. Brisket” and “A Bar on the Piccola Marina.” He also proves an impressive balladeer with Coward’s poignantly introspective “If Love Were All,” from 1929 operetta “Bitter Sweet.”

As well as his witty and caustic patter tunes, Coward produced outstanding melodies that have become standards. Here they’re assigned to the vocally captivating Lauris, who shines on the haunting “London Pride,” the sultry “Mad About the Boy” and the tender “I’ll Follow My Heart.”

Lauris also proves a physical comedian on the level of Betty Hutton as she offers a slapstick tour de force, portraying an overly enthusiastic young thesp performing all the roles and songs from her new show “The Coconut Girl.”

Together, the trio offers two of the show’s comedic highlights: Coward’s skewering of stage mothers, “Mrs. Worthington,” and his lovingly caustic reworking of the lyrics in Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It.” The trio display adept harmonizing skills with an a cappela rendering of the show-closing “I’ll See You Again.”

When Anders and Danielsen are not at their keyboards, the show is seamlessly underscored by an upstage trio led by pianist-conductor John Randall.

Also complementing the proceedings are the sophisticated drawing-room sets of Bill Forrester and the colorful, celebratory costumes of David Kay Mickelsen.

A Marvelous Party: The Noel Coward Celebration

Laguna Playhouse; 400 seats; $65 top

Production

A Laguna Playhouse presentation of a musical revue in two acts, with music and lyrics by Noel Coward, devised by David Ira Goldstein, Carl Danielsen, Mark Anders, Patricia Wilcox and Anna Lauris. Directed by David Ira Goldstein. Music direction, Carl Danielsen. Choreography, Wilcox.

Creative

Sets, Bill Forrester; costumes, David Kay Mickelsen; lighting, Todd Hensley; sound, David Edwards; musical arrangements, Carl Danielsen; stage manager, Vernon Willett. Opened, reviewed Nov. 18, 2006. Runs through Dec. 17. Running time: 1 HOUR, 45 MIN.

Cast

With: Mark Anders, Carl Danielsen, Anna Lauris.
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