Cole: The Music and Life of Cole Porter: An evening of more than 35 hits from this classic tunesmith, whose popular melodies such as "Night and Day," "You Do Something to Me," and "I Get a Kick Out of You" were heard in countless musicals and films from 1916 until the late 1950s. The lyricist and composer's life is illustrated through poetic narration told by various nameless characters and shuffled in between a mix of songs and an occasional dance number around a three-piece band. The cramped staging and lack of plot and props stifle the action. When props are used, as in the cute "Be a Clown" (Erin Romero), "De-Lovely" (Justin Barnette and Anna K. Demoranville), and the feisty "Let's Misbehave" (Christopher George Patterson and Shelese Franklin), the show brightens. Otherwise, it's less of a play and more of an evening of less-than-awe-inspiring song. Kristin Mellan shines, showing emotion in every piece, especially in "Love for Sale" and "Make It Another Old Fashioned Please." Romero's best moment is when she lies across the piano, legs in the air, crooning a humorous "The Laziest Gal in Town." Barnette and Mark K. Harmon do a nice shtick in "Brush Up on Your Shakespeare." Cole's prose and costumes are a sneak peek into the golden era of the '20s and beyond, but unfortunately, most of the juicier details of Porter's life story, like his gay lifestyle and "business" marriage to a wealthy woman, were lost in the shuffle (for a glimpse of those, see the soon-to-be-released movie De-Lovely). A musical trip down memory lane for those old enough to go back that far. (Through August 8 at the Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs, 954-344-7765.)
Heaven Help Us! The Swingin' New Rat Pack Musical: This toe-tapping world premiere about God sending the Rat Pack back to Vegas to help a suicidal lounge owner is stylishly presented, with a terrific cast belting out some great tunes -- some 29 hits pop up in the show, ranging from brief refrains to full-blown song-and-dance numbers. Co-creator Ray Roderick's snappy direction and choreography and a fine on-stage jazz combo also sparkle. But the performance and production strengths only emphasize the weaknesses of the decidedly half-baked script: Heaven's creative team needs to get back in the kitchen. (Through September 5 at Florida Stage, Plaza Del Mar, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan, 561-585-3433 or 800-514-3837.)
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