Cole Porter’s Greatest Hits Review – Light Opera Works’ De-Lovely Cabaret

The night was young, the sky was clear, the music charming: I’m sincere! ‘Twas delightful, de-lovely, delicious!  Evanston’s Light Opera Works production of Cole Porter’s Greatest Hits was perfection!

In the program, Hogenmiller issues the invitation,“So, Let’s do it—let’s fall in love …with Cole Porter!” And fall we did!

Artistic Director and Director of this production, Rudy Hogenmiller, ingeniously divided Porter’s hits into four separate parties: “Let’s Fall in Love,” “Only You Beneath the Moon and Under the Sun,” my personal favorite, “What a Swell Party This Is!” and “That Funny Thing Called Love.”  This gives the songs thematic context and it gave Hogenmiller the opportunity to make magnificent costume changes. Not only did the women wear gorgeous gowns, the men’s dinner jackets and tuxedos really captured the Cole Porter settings and their personal lavish life style.

The outstanding, “note”worthy cast put so much heart, soul, and energy into their performances, it was spellbinding:

James Harms, glides across the stage with all the grace and charm of Fred Astaire while singing lilting notes and creating a charming character.  No wonder: the recipient of eight Joseph Jefferson awards range is boundless, from Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, and, most recently, Jedd Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies. It’s no surprise that, after appearing in the GOODMAN THEATRE productionof The Iceman Cometh with Nathan Lane and Brian Denehy, he will be reprising his role along with them in the New York revival in 2015.

Harms’ partner, Mary Robin Roth, was with him every step, note and rueful glance of the way. What a voice! Reminiscent of Ethel Merman, Roth’s versatility is undisputed: she played five different characters in No Way to Treat a Lady!

James Rank’s talents are known all over! A Jeff Award winner, Rank has performed with Santa Fe Opera, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Palmiro Opera (near Caracas, Venezuela) to name just a handful. When you hear his full, rich tones, you’ll know why!

Katelin Spencer, a fresh new face is a confident beauty with a voice to match. Despite her youth, the depth and breadth of her experience tells a different story: this is someone to watch! Her Master’s Degree in Opera Performance and Literature from Northwestern University no doubt opened some doors for her, but it was her voice and stage presence that won her roles in The Magic Flute, Kurt Weill’s Street Scene, Fiddler on the Roof, and many more.

Moreover, the on-stage combo, conducted by Music Director Roger Bingaman, was completely in step (flowing choreography and on-stage high jinx was a lovely grace note) and, of course, tunefully connected with the cast.

Who’s left? Artistic Director and Director of this production, Rudy Hogenmiller! Recognized with six Joseph Jefferson awards and 17 nominations for best direction and choreography in Chicago, the theater community and savvy area audiences have been applauding his work for years!  Bravo, Rudy!   

 If you don’t already know Light Opera Works, I would be very proud to be the person to introduce you to this fine, talented company:

Light Opera Works is a residential professional not-for-profit theater in Evanston, founded in 1980. The company’s mission is to produce and present musical theater from a variety of world traditions. All productions are presented in English, with foreign works done in carefully edited modern translations. Maximum scholarship is employed to preserve the original vocal and orchestral material as well as the spirit of the original text whenever possible. Audiences have come to know that at Light Opera Works they will experience repertoire often unavailable on the stages of commercial theaters and opera houses, in modern productions with professional artists.

Light Opera Works’ mission is to producemusical theater from a variety of world traditions, to engage the community through Educational and outreach programs, and to train artists in musical theater.


Hurry! Cole Porter’s Greatest Hits limited engagement ends October 12!

 Don’t miss Light Opera Works family holiday show, The Merry Widow, December 19-31 at Cahn Auditorium.

For tickets and more information, call (847) 920-5360 or visit the Light Opera Works website,

Photos: Mona Luan

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