Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

The show opens on an elegant room with a small combo playing a medley of Cole Porter's songs as the staff finishes preparations for the guests to arrive ("Overture"). Famous hostess Elsa Maxwell enters and revels in what a great party she is about to throw. Other guests arrive, equally ready for the swanky affair ("I'm Throwing a Ball Tonight"). Finally, Cole Porter enters.

A woman tells the audience her memory of being entertained by Cole Porter on a European trip. Cole sits at the piano and sings of his freewheeling lifestyle ("I'm a Gigolo"). Elsa Maxwell remembers the reviews of Cole's first show, and we go back in time to 1916. We're at a surprise birthday party for Cole, thrown by Elsa. Cole is depressed about his bad reviews and worried that he's all washed up at 22. Elsa and Clifton Webb try to cheer Cole up, but he'll have none of it. Elsa leads the group in one of Cole's songs about how, tomorrow, things will be better ("Tomorrow").

There is a brief exchange between Cole and Elsa about the fact that he always owes her money. She continues to try to convince him that he will someday be a Broadway success, but Porter decides to join the French Foreign Legion. However, Cole's war years were not quite as taxing as he made them out to be; mostly he threw lavish parties and wrote songs ("War Song"). After the war, he enjoys his time in Paris, where he meets and courts wealthy socialite Linda Lee Thomas. Cole's friends, Moss Hart and Sarah Murphy, comment on the pairing but come to the same conclusion: it's a good match. Linda is beautiful and rich, and Cole loves expensive beautiful things ("I Love Paris").

We are next introduced to the legendary entertainer, Bricktop, and her club in Montmartre. She sings a sultry love song as Linda and Cole enter the club ("I'm in Love Again"). Linda laments the fact that despite her best efforts to promote Cole's songs, Broadway has expressed little interest. Cole admits that his life is dedicated only to entertaining himself. Bricktop tells the audience that the press is up in arms about the familiarity between her – a black woman – and Porter, but she says that he didn't care. As the scene transitions from Paris to Venice, a man comments on the Jazz Age party that was Porter's life in this moment ("Who Said Gay Paree?").

We are now at the Porters' palazzo in Venice; guests have entered in a grand and formal manner, holding carnival masks. Despite the formality, it's clear this party is quite risqué and typical of the Porters' lifestyle in Venice ("Come along with Me"). However, despite the debauchery, a man reveals to the audience that Cole Porter was writing about being bored in Venice. Bricktop sings a song about the changing times ("Anything Goes"). She leads everyone in a dance break, and while the dance happens in the background, Linda introduces Cole to Broadway producer Ray Goetz, who wants to bring Porter to Broadway.

In a sequence condensing Porter's early successes, we hear a phrase from one hit song of each show as the marquee title is displayed ("Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love" / "Let's Misbehave" / "What Is This Thing Called Love?" / "Love for Sale" / "I Get a Kick out of You" / "Anything Goes – Reprise"). Ethel Merman leads the last and final song.

Next, we find Monty Woolley reading the rave reviews of Cole's latest show. Cole, however, focuses on the one bad review. His new friends, Dorothy Parker and George Kaufman, silence his negativity. The singular Miss Parker reveals that rumor has it: Cole is going to Hollywood. This is news to Linda, and she's not happy about it.

Some highbrow ribbing of Merman's unique voice and Porter's penchant for writing numerous verses to his songs prompts Cole to share some of his "new" lyrics to a recent hit song of his. Ethel does her best to get through the unfamiliar lyrics when she realizes that she's been slipped a "blue" verse to the song as a joke ("You're the Top")!

Monty keeps up the good spirits by launching into another cheeky song of Cole's about a woman who has to miss a lunch date for an extreme reason ("Miss Otis Regrets"). As he finishes, he recollects his first meeting with Cole at Yale. We segue into a number about the memory of tropical splendor and we have been transported to Hollywood ("Begin the Beguine"). The Hollywood press and other elites surround Cole, which means that he has no time for Linda or Monty. Linda confides to Monty how unhappy she is with this arrangement. When she doesn't come with Monty and Cole after the party, Monty is concerned; Cole, however, dismisses it and invites a male waiter to come with them. A woman enters and comments on the difficulties of the Porters' relationship ("Just One of Those Things").

Alone, Linda worries that what she and Cole had is now fading ("In the Still of the Night"). Cole leads the band as Ethel enters with a chorus of female dancers that performs a jazzy tap number celebrating lowbrow music; this number is juxtaposed with Cole singing about his success. The number mysteriously starts to wane.... Monty enters and announces the devastating news of Cole's horse riding accident – his legs were horribly crushed. They summon Linda from Paris, and she informs the doctor that her husband's legs must be rebuilt, as amputation is not an option. The company and Ethel continue with the juxtaposed number that ends with Ethel belting out ("Ridin' High" / "Red, Hot, and Blue").

Act Two

Preparations are in high gear for Cole's first public appearance since the accident at a party thrown by Elsa Maxwell. The company assembles, and Elsa has them serenade Cole as he is carried in ("It's Delovely"). Linda follows them as Paul brings on a wheelchair. Noel Coward enters and offers to entertain. He's written his own set of extraordinary lyrics to a Porter favorite ("Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love"). Not to be outdone, Elsa steps to the piano and offers her best impression of Beatrice Lillie ("The Physician"). It is followed by Monty's rendition of a classic song about a man who needs to wander ("Don't Fence Me In"). However, the special surprise guest is Bricktop, who offers her own tribute ("Ca, C'est L'Amour). Finally, the whole company sings together in honor of their dear friend after his seven-month hiatus from society during his recuperation ("Friendship").

Bella Spewack and Cole reveal their plans to collaborate on a new Broadway show, and he is coerced into singing one of the songs form the new score ("My Heart Belongs to Daddy"). Cole can't finish the number, due to the pain in his legs, and is rushed out. Bella tells the audience that the musical was a rousing success and that Mary Martin made that song the hit of the show. She also tells us that Cole was so busy writing shows over the next few years that he hardly knew what was going on in the real world... even when the United States entered World War II.

The marquee lights up to show the title of Something for the Boys. A youthful trio of girls appear and perform a number from the show ("I'm in Love with a Soldier Boy"). During the after party, however, Bella and Cole get into an argument. Bella has a new show for which she wants Cole to write the score. He resists. Rodgers and Hammerstein's shows have changed the rules of musical theatre songwriting, and Porter is unsure of his abilities. He declares that he's finished. Linda now realizes that this is the moment for which she's been waiting – no more Broadway, no more Hollywood... just the two of them ("Ours"). But then, the lights come up on Cole... standing with a cane... ready for another opening night.

We soon realize that Cole has agreed to write Bella's new show and we see part of the rehearsal process. The songs from the show reflect on his personal life with Linda. First, Cole wonders at how his circumstances have changed for the worse. Linda tells him of her own disappointment and perceived mistreatment. The sequence culminates with Cole insisting that he does the best that he can and Linda admonishing his behavior. Ultimately, Linda realizes that she can't stop Cole's party. The lights come up on the marquee as we find ourselves at opening night ("Kiss Me Kate Medley").

The show is a hit, and Porter is back on top. Monty and Cole have a good laugh over the recent and not-so-accurate Porter biopic, Night and Day, starring Cary Grant as Porter and Monty, who plays a Yale professor. The two of them launch into the fight song that Porter had written while at Yale ("Bulldog"). Another montage of more years of hit Porter shows follows, leading up to Linda's illness and death. Later, Cole and Elsa recall the summers they spent in Venice and how they miss the parties and the music ("True Love"). The scene disintegrates as Elsa and Cole begin to bicker. The pain in Porter's legs finally brings an end to the evening. Paul comments on the difficulties faced by the aging and infirm Porter ("Wake up and Dream").

Cole and Paul have a final exchange, with Porter declining the invitation to his own seventieth birthday party at the Orpheum Theatre. As Paul wheels Cole away, we hear voices from the darkness singing individual lines of songs, building into larger sections from Porter's vast cannon of hits ("Finale"). The curtain closes on Mr. Cole Porter and the lights fade.