The show's big set piece requires the six troupers to pair up into three couples on one huge bed. Each couple tosses lyrics back and forth in a series of comic repartee that nearly gives birth to a brand new minimusical -- one in which miscommunication between men and women provides the dramatic grist. Here, cast members Jessica Sheridan and Mark Santoro enact the dialogue song "But in the Morning, No" as a duel between a husband who wants to sleep and a wife who wants to get to know him better: "Can you do the crawl, my dear?/Kindly tell me, if so," sings Sheridan. Santoro replies: "I can do the crawl, my dear,/But in the morning, no" and buries his head under the pillow.
No sooner has this couple quieted down than up springs Barry Tarallo, singing "Rosalie" to his lover (Laurie Gamache), who clearly has no idea who this Rosalie is. Her retort? "Why Can't You Behave?" -- the scold-your-mate song from Kiss Me, Kate. His response: "Don't Fence Me In." A pillow fight ensues. The third couple -- Kim Cozort and Jerry Christakos -- set each other off with "Without Love" from Silk Stockings (him) and "I Hate Men" from Kiss Me, Kate (her). The production number capitalizes not only on the universal truths of Porter's lyrics but on the affable chemistry among the cast.
The show's one wrong note is its rendition of "Too Darn Hot" from Kiss Me, Kate, staged here by having the performers sensuously drape themselves over club chairs as though Porter had written it for Cabaret. Its lyrics range from spicy to silly -- "I want to sup with my baby tonight/And play the pup/With my baby tonight" -- but it's never tawdry, though that's the tone that Hot 'n' Cole's red-and-black costumes and physical attitudes of this production number seem to be going for.
With an ensemble cast as strong as the one in this production, it's not really necessary to single out individual performers. Still, here's a tip of the hat to Kim Cozort for her endearing comic turn in "Let's Not Talk About Love"; to Mark Santoro for hilariously impersonating the bearer of bad news in "Miss Otis Regrets"; to Laurie Gamache for her exuberant dancing and singing in "I Get a Kick Out of You"; to Jessica Sheridan for a spirited rendition of "I'm Back in Circulation"; to Jerry Christakos for giving us a taste of "Without Love"; and to Barry Tarallo for convincing us "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." You're all the tops.
Happy Trails to Roy Rogers, who first popularized Porter's ditty "Don't Fence Me In." The song, based on a poem by a Montana cowboy named Bob Fletcher, was written for Adios Argentina, a movie that Porter scored for the Fox studio, planned for release in 1935 but never made. Not until Warner Bros. released Hollywood Canteen, starring Rogers, in 1944, did the song see the light of day. So, Roy, adios to you as you "straddle [your] old saddle under starry skies above."
Hot 'n' Cole. Music and lyrics by Cole Porter. Devised by David Armstrong, Mark Waldrop, and Bruce W. Coyle. Musical arrangement by Bruce W. Coyle. Directed by J. Barry Lewis. Piano accompaniment by Scott Kasbaum and David Nagy. Starring Jerry Christakos, Kim Cozort, Laurie Gamache, Mark Santoro, Jessica Sheridan, and Barry Tarallo. Through September 5. Florida Stage, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan, 800-514-3837.