High Society (musical)

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This article is about the musical. For other uses, see High society (disambiguation).
High Society
Original Recording
Music Cole Porter
Lyrics Cole Porter
Susan Birkenhead
Book Arthur Kopit
Basis Philip Barry play
The Philadelphia Story
Productions 1987 West End
1998 Broadway
2005 West End

High Society is a musical with a book by Arthur Kopit and music and lyrics by Cole Porter and additional lyrics by Susan Birkenhead. It is based on the Philip Barry play The Philadelphia Story and the 1956 musical screen adaptation with Porter's songs, High Society.


The plot centers on pretentious Long Island socialite Tracy Lord, who is planning a June 1938 wedding to an equally pretentious executive when ex-husband Dexter Haven arrives to disrupt the proceedings. Additional comic complications arise when tabloid reporter Mike Connor, who is there to cover the wedding, also falls for the bride-to-be. The score's songs were compiled from various Porter musicals; in some instances, updated or new lyrics were provided by Susan Birkenhead.


The musical premiered in a West End production at the Victoria Palace Theatre on February 25, 1987 and ran for 420 performances. It starred Trevor Eve (Dexter), Stephen Rea (Mike), Angela Richards (Liz), Natasha Richardson (Tracy) and Ronald Fraser (Uncle Willie); the director was Richard Eyre.[1]

A decade after its worldwide premiere, the musical had a try-out in San Francisco in 1997, [2] and had its Broadway premiere the following spring.

The musical premiered on Broadway at the St. James Theatre on April 27, 1998 and closed on August 30, 1998 after 144 performances and 27 previews. Directed by Christopher Renshaw, the cast included Stephen Bogardus (Macaulay Conner), Melissa Errico (Tracy), Daniel McDonald (Dexter), John McMartin (Uncle Willie), Randy Graff, Lisa Banes, Marc Kudisch, Betsy Joslyn and a 12-year-old Anna Kendrick. Sets were by Loy Arcenas, costumes were by Jane Greenwood, and lighting was by Howell Binkley. Des McAnuff was "brought in during the show's troubled tryout period" and is uncredited. Lar Lubovitch is credited as the choreographer, with Wayne Cilento uncredited.[3]

Ben Brantley, in his review for The New York Times, wrote: "...spirits are definitely high in 'High Society,' which stars a sadly misused Melissa Errico, but they also feel forced and even desperate. The show, first seen in a tepidly received version in San Francisco, has since undergone drastic retailoring. And it ominously shed its director and choreographer of record, Christopher Renshaw and Lar Lubovitch, during New York rehearsals, with Des McAnuff and Wayne Cilento stepping in to make last-minute revisions. Perhaps that accounts for the feverish, at-sea quality that seems to possess the show's team of talented, proven performers. The production's guiding rule appears to be to do whatever is necessary to land a joke or to sell a song... Numbers that should bubble with dry effervescence are more likely to come across as a thick ferment of suds."[4]

The costumes are on display at the Costume World Broadway Collection in Pompano Beach, Florida.[citation needed]

On October 1, 2005, a West End revival starring Katherine Kingsley (Tracy Lord), Graham Bickley (Dexter Haven), Paul Robinson (Mike) and Jerry Hall (Mrs. Lord) opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre. This was based on the 2003 Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park production and subsequent tour. These productions were directed by Ian Talbot OBE.[5] Tracie Bennett played Liz in the Open Air Theatre production and stole the show, according to The Guardian critic.[6]

Song list[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1998 Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical John McMartin Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Anna Kendrick Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Melissa Errico Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical John McMartin Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Anna Kendrick Nominated
Theatre World Award Anna Kendrick Won

London revival[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2004 Laurence Olivier Award Best Musical Revival Nominated
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical Tracie Bennett Nominated


  1. ^ Vivyan Ellacott London Musicals 1987
  2. ^ Simonson, Robert and Lefkowitz, David."'High Society' Opens on Broadway Apr. 27" playbill.com, April 27, 1998
  3. ^ Sommer, Elyse."A CurtainUp Review. 'High Society'" Curtainup.com, April 23, 1998
  4. ^ Brantley, Ben."Theater Review. Party Animals, or, Frolics Of the Rich and Tacky" The New York Times, (abstract), April 28, 1998, Section E, p.1
  5. ^ Fisher, Philip."'High Society', Shaftesbury Theatre, 2005" britishtheatreguide.info, accessed June 8, 2012
  6. ^ Costa, Maddy." 'High Society', Open Air Theatre, London" 28 July 2003

External links[edit]