HIGH SOCIETY to Open Walnut Street's 207th Anniversary Season
Walnut Street Theatre opens its landmark 207th season with the sparkling Broadway musical featuring the classic sounds of Cole Porter, HIGH SOCIETY. Directed by Frank Anzalone, with choreography by Mary Jane Houdina, this Philadelphia premiere begins previews on September 8th, opens on September 16th and runs through October 25th on the Walnut's Mainstage.
Walnut's Producing Artistic Director Bernard Havard is thrilled to open the season with HIGH SOCIETY noting, "This musical is based on The Philadelphia Story, which we produced in an earlier season to audience's delight. High Society incorporates the gorgeous music of Cole Porter with Philip Barry's great story, a perfect match. Philadelphia audiences will fall in love with this show."
HIGH SOCIETY introduces Tracy Lord, a wealthy socialite planning her lavish summer wedding when her ex-husband appears to try and win her back. When charming tabloid reporter Mike Connor arrives to cover the nuptials, he too takes a shine to the bride-to-be. As the day of the wedding draws closer who will the bride choose? Audiences are invited to the wedding of the year, and what a swell party it's going to be! Broadway's dazzling musical comedy features hit songs including "Let's Misbehave," "Just One of Those Things," "True Love" and the unforgettable "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?."
HIGH SOCIETY is based on Philip Barry's 1939 stage comedy The Philadelphia Story, and the 1956 film musical High Society, which starred Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra. The stage musical, with book by Arthur Kopit, saw its Broadway premiere in 1998 at the St. James Theatre. The production was nominated for two Tony Awards and four Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding New Musical. In London, a musical adaptation of HIGH SOCIETY, with book by Richard Eyre, opened in 1987. The Arthur Kopit version was produced at the Open Air Theatre in 2003, before transferring to London's West End in 2005. Most recently, a revival was produced at The Old Vic Theatre in April, 2015.
Cole Porter's score for HIGH SOCIETY was one of his final contributions to film musicals, and "True Love," which he wrote for the movie, was his last musical hit. The Broadway production included many songs from the film, with additional music from Porter's earlier work, including "Let's Misbehave" and "Just One of Those Things." Susan Birkenhead provided additional lyrics for the 1998 production.
Director, and Philadelphia resident, Frank Anzalone returns to the Walnut to direct the production. Anzalone began his Walnut career as stage manager, a position he held for 23 years. He spent nine years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of the Arts, heading the Stage Management Program. He has directed over 100 productions, including Walnut Mainstage productions 1776 (Barrymore Award nominee for Best Musical and Best Director of a Musical), Cole Porter's Anything Goes and Hello, Dolly!. In the Independence Studio on 3 he's directed productions including Vanities, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds (Barrymore Award nominee for Best Play), Visiting Mr. Green and I Do! I Do!. Douglass G. Lutz will join Anzalone as musical director and Mary Jane Houdina as choreographer. Lutz has guided numerous Mainstage musicals for the past fifteen seasons, most recently Memphis, Mary Poppins, 9 To 5: The Musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Elf and In the Heights. Houdina's work has been seen in the movie The Great Gatsby for which she was associate choreographer, as well on Broadway in the original production of Annie (associate choreographer) and Into the Light (choreographer). At the Walnut, her work as choreographer includes Oliver!, Hairspray, 42nd Street and Crazy for You.
Megan Nicole Arnoldy will lead the party as the bride-to-be Tracy Lord. Arnoldy was seen on the Walnut's stage in 42nd Street. She recently took her final bow with the Las Vegas production of Jersey Boys, having performed in the company for three years. Additional credits include Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Ogunquit Playhouse, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, a Korean tour of the musical Fame! and the national tour of The Drowsy Chaperone. Paul Schaefer makes his Walnut debut as the dashing ex-husband Dexter Haven. Schaefer recently performed in Broadway's Phantom of the Opera (Marksman, cover Raoul/Phantom), with additional credits including Thoroughly Modern Millie national tour and the Off-Broadway production My Life With Albertine.
Jon Reinhold (Beauty and the Beast) returns to the Walnut as groom-to-be George Kittredge and, always ready to enjoy the party, Dan Schiff (1776) will play Uncle Willie. Ben Dibble (The Producers) joins the cast as the reporter turned love interest Mike Connor and Jenny Lee Stern (Godspell) will play the patient-hearted photographer. Stern was recently seen in Rocky on Broadway and in the national tour of A Christmas Story, The Musical. Grace Gonglewski (An Ideal Husband) returns to the Mainstage as mother-of-the-bride Margaret Lord and Dan Olmstead (Amadeus) as father-of-the-bride Seth Lord. The role of the youngest member of the Lord family, Dinah, will be shared by Cambira Klein (Elf) and Alexis Gwynn (Elf).
The ensemble is full of Walnut veterans, including Robert Abdoo (Oliver!), Laura Giknis (Grease), Billy D. Hart (9 To 5: The Musical), Jesse Jones (Memphis), Michael Philip O'Brien (How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying), Jenny Piersol (Mary Poppins), Kerri Rose (9 To 5) and Adrienne Wells (Memphis).
Creating the lush 1930's setting of the classic story re-set on Oyster Bay, Long Island, the Walnut welcomes back Robert Andrew Kovach as Set Designer (9 To 5: The Musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Elf). He is joined by Lighting Designer Paul Black (Mary Poppins, How to Succeed..., In the Heights), Costume Designer Mary Folino (The Mousetrap, Around the World in 80 Days), and Sound Designer Will Pickens (9 To 5: The Musical, Elf), whose deigns will remind audiences of the romance of a glamorous era.
HIGH SOCIETY runs at the Walnut September 8 through October 25. Open captioning will be available for the Sunday, October 4th performance. This production is sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Media Sponsor is NBC 10 and Metro Philadelphia. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.
Pictured: Paul Schaefer, Megan Nicole Arnoldy and Ben Dibble in Cole Porter's HIGH SOCIETY at Walnut Street Theatre. Photo by Mark Garvin.