Fox Valley Repertory is billing the regional debut of "Let's Misbehave!" at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles as "The New Cole Porter Revue." Yet, "Let's Misbehave" is actually a "jukebox musical" instead of a plotless revue of tunes featuring a 2010 script by Karin Bowerstock, which provides a sometimes flimsy framework for a slew of songs written by one of America's most witty and tuneful songwriters of the 20th century.
Bowerstock sets "Let's Misbehave" in an elegant 1930s New York penthouse apartment owned by the glamorous Dorothy (played by Heather Townsend, dripping with faux diamonds in a sleek purple velvet dress by costume designer Kimberly G. Morris).
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"Let's Misbehave"★ ★ ½
Location: Fox Valley Repertory at Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles, (630) 584-6342, or foxvalleyrep.org
Showtimes: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 20. Also at 2 p.m. Thursdays, Sept. 26 and Oct. 17
Tickets: $32-$42; dinner packages, group discounts and overnight rates available
Running time: About two hours with intermission
Parking: Free nearby lots
Rating: For most audiences; lots of boozing and a few lyrics involve innuendo and drug use
Dorothy has just seen off most of her guests from an alcohol-fueled party, save for her dearest friends Alice (Khaki Pixley) and the painter Walter (Blake Reddick), who stay on into the early hours of the morning with the ever-present pianist (Ryan Brewster). They gossip, bemoan their single statuses and grow ever tipsier to an array of Porter songs that originally appeared in full-length Broadway musicals like "Anything Goes" (1934), "Red, Hot and Blue" (1937) and "Gay Divorce" (1932), among others.
Hence, Alice defends her gold-digger romances with wealthy men in the number "Always True to You in my Fashion" (originally from the 1948 musical "Kiss Me, Kate"). Walter reflects on his unsteady career in the number "Never, Never Be an Artist" (originally from the 1953 musical "Can-Can"), while Dorothy determinately puts the moves on Walter as the morning wears on when she sings the show's title song (which was cut from the 1928 Broadway show "Paris," but went on to become one of Porter's iconic standards).
While Bowerstock does create some dramatic tension by setting up a romantic triangle in "Let's Misbehave!," the placement of Porter songs in her script sometimes feels uncomfortably squeezed in (particularly Walter's boisterous song-and-dance number "Ridin' High," which surprisingly doesn't wake up a nearby dozing Dorothy right away).
And for such an intimate living room gathering among friends, some of the songs take on an incongruous production-number presentational showiness in director/choreographer Kevin Bellie's efficient staging of the show. Among the performers, the women come off best. Townsend and Pixley are very adept at arch and knowing line readings while delivering the well-known songs with lovely voices.
Alas, the long-limbed Reddick as Walter behaves rather uncomfortably as a romantic, worldly wise leading man. And though Brewster is solid at tickling the ivories, his spare spoken interjections could use a bit more sarcastic panache.
Clearly the four-performer "Let's Misbehave!" is an economically scheduled show for Fox Valley Repertory, even though the production values like Bob Knuth's sleek art deco set and Gary C. Echelmeyer's patterned lighting design are both top-notch. But given director/choreographer Bellie's past fine work for Circle Theatre in staging big Broadway shows in a tiny space, "Let's Misbehave!" at times feels paltry when compared to so many full-fledged Porter musicals that already exist.
I'm kind of mixed on "Let's Misbehave!" The show does offer a concise chance for a skilled cast to perform a showcase of amazingly crafted and theatrically clever Porter songs. Yet Bowerstock's new script only occasionally lives up to the brilliance of Porter's music.