High Society Festival Theatre

A surprisingly thought provoking evening of entertainment awaits in High Society at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh. From its origin in The Philadelphia Story of the 1930s, through the 1950s addition of the wonderful Cole Porter score to the current thoroughly enjoyable production, this musical still has a lot to say that’s relevant today.

Society heiress Tracy Lord (played by Sophie Bould) is getting married, but which of the three men in her life will be the lucky guy? She is engaged to – and almost at the altar with – the stuffy George Kittredge when ex-husband Dexter Haven (the elegant Michael Praed) turns up, now reformed and sworn off drink, and unsettles Tracy. The wedding preparation is further complicated when reporters Mike Conner and Liz Imbrie gatecrash the pre-wedding party and Mike falls headlong for Tracy who, obviously bored by George, flirts shamelessly. However Dexter is determined to win Tracy back and the interaction keeps us guessing as to who the lucky chap will be.

The leading actors deliver the musical numbers with polish and style and Act One includes the familiar “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and “She’s Got That Thing”. On Tuesday a technical glitch stalled the first act for a good quarter of an hour and the cast did an admirable job getting the audience back to Long Island after the disruption. However the first act felt as though it lacked pace slightly although it’s perhaps not fair to judge on this evening’s experience.

Act Two in contrast fairly clips along with “Let’s Misbehave”, and of course “True Love” among others. Uncle Willie (Teddy Kempner) is in danger of stealing the show. For a big man he is incredibly light footed and his comic timing is impeccable. Who would have thought napkins and silver trays could be used to such effect!

The chorus in this production sing the “Well, Did You Evah!” which was the Crosby/Sinatra duet in the 1956 production. They have a great routine tap-dancing on upturned pots and pans while Tracy and Liz are tapping on the table. The big routines are well choreographed and slickly executed and you would be pretty hard to please if you don’t enjoy this production.

Val Clark