Cocktails With Coward

Don't Tell Mama, NYC - July 2005

Reviewed by John Kenrick

The premise is certainly intriguing. Four of Noel Coward's fictional characters get together in hopes of meeting up with their creator. While waiting for him to appear, they sing almost three dozen of Coward's tunes.

This might have had amusing results if Elvira (Blithe Spirit), Elyot (Private Lives), Judith Bliss (Hay Fever) and Tony (Star Quality) had remained on stage throughout Cocktails With Coward. But after introducing these fascinating characters and giving them the barest chance to interact, director Daniel Lavender has his performers pop in and out of character (and sometimes in and out of their English accents) without warning.

The casting is jarringly uneven. Tom Beckett's Elyot captures something of Coward's style in numbers like "Mrs. Worthington," and Gerrianne Raphael's Judith delivers an effective "If Love Were All," but there any cause for praise ends. While Cooper Grodin is quite capable at the keyboard, he keeps interrupting the proceedings with the most amateurish dialogue delivery I have heard since my second grade Christmas play. I will draw a merciful veil over the rest of the cast. If this was the best cast the producers could find in New York City, then they couldn't have been looking very hard.

As Don't Tell Mama is an intimate space, I applaud this production's decision to eschew the use of microphones. Sadly, this idea was defeated by the presence of a drummer, who frequently made the singers inaudible and made appalling rhythmic choices to boot. I always question the need for drummers in cabaret, but it is truly pointless with period material like this.

Cocktails With Coward is a disjointed and utterly lacking in style. I can't imagine any theatre group choosing to stage this show when delicious revues like Oh Coward and Cowardy Custard already offer much the same material in infinitely finer form.

This revue ran at Don't Tell Mama through July 27, 2005.

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