Arts and Entertainment

Centerstage Theatre in Federal Way presents Valentine's treat

“True Love”: The Cole Porter Songbook is set to play at Centerstage Theatre on Valentine’s Day. Pictured above is Laurie Clothier performing.  - Jason Ganwich, Contributed
“True Love”: The Cole Porter Songbook is set to play at Centerstage Theatre on Valentine’s Day. Pictured above is Laurie Clothier performing.
— image credit: Jason Ganwich, Contributed

There is talent and then there is genius: Shakespeare, Leonardo, Isaac Newtown, Einstein … and Cole Porter?

It’s not so long ago that popular music was perceived as the candy floss of the musical world. But as the 21st century matures, so we are developing a richer understanding of the creative genius of some of the iconic American greats.

“Cole Porter’s lyrics are up there with Shakespeare’s sonnets and other great poetic literature,” says Purple Phoenix Productions artistic director David Duvall, “because they manage to capture the depth and the complexity of the human romantic experience. Due to the way in which he lived his life, he understood ‘love’ was rarely easy, usually multi-dimensional and not to be treated lightly. He had to balance those he loved, and how he loved them, all the time … which is, I think, why he never wrote a simple ‘I love you’ song, which were so common in his day - he knew that relationships were never simple.”

Beyond that, “a great song is like an audio painting,” says Duvall. “It’s a harmonic view of a moment in life that gets put on paper so cleanly that you can’t help but be moved by it. I think there have been many great songwriters who are able to capture humanity with their work – Billy Joel, Carly Simon, Lennon and McCartney, just to name a few. But no one has ever been able to capture the joys and complexities of love the way Porter did. This is why so many vocalists have sung his songs over the years, and why they will continue to be sung.”

Duvall is particularly thrilled to be presenting this concert – his 10th Porter tribute – with what he calls his “dream cast” for a Porter show.

“When doing a new Porter tribute was proposed, there were four people I wanted to have sing the songs – and when all the stars aligned and we were able to get all of them, I knew this would be a very special evening,” he said.

Laurie Clothier, Connie Corrick, Hugh Hastings and Eric Polani Jensen are all now well-known frequent actors at The 5th Avenue Theatre, The Village Theatre, Seattle Childrens’ Theatre and numerous cabarets in Seattle and beyond. But they all have a long personal and professional history with Duvall, back to their early days as Seattle entertainers or beyond.

Clothier first joined Duvall in a Porter revue in Bellingham in 1979. Hastings and Corrick did their first Cole Porter revue with Duvall in a Pioneer Square nightclub in the early 1980’s – just before they married, and Duvall put together a Porter show for them when they were performing on cruise ships.

“Eric is the only vocalist in this show I haven’t performed a full Porter concert with to date – but we’ve performed many Porter songs in nightclubs over the years,” Duvall said. “It is a wonderful blessing for me to be building this show for life-long friends who know how to speak ‘Cole Porter.’”

Duvall learned his appreciation of Porter early in life.

“I grew up listening to a lot of Porter music because my father enjoyed his writing and would play jazz recordings of the songs while we had dinner – really our only family time together. Dad loved that kind of humor. I often joke that the first language I learned was innuendo. But dad was also a band director who understood a well-constructed song, and our dinner conversations would often be about how a Cole Porter song differed from a Gershwin tune. An odd childhood, I realize, but it prepared me for what I do now.”

Now known for his brilliant orchestrations (“True Love” features the talented Purple Phoenix Orchestra) and his catalog of revues celebrating American musical icons, it is not surprising that Duvall’s first revue, while still a senior in high school, was a salute to the songs of Porter.

The lexicon of Porter shows and songs is vast. “Anything Goes,” “I Get A Kick Out of You,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “What Is This Thing Called Love?” … the list goes on and on. Duvall promises that audiences will not be disappointed: “Purple Phoenix concerts always include the songs that everybody wants to hear. But there’s so much other great material to share. Many of these are just as lovely, if not more beautiful, than the songs that are popular.”

“True Love” has two performances at Centerstage at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16.

For tickets, call (253) 661-1444 or visit www.centerstagetheatre.com.

 

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