A TWO-CHARACTER MUSICAL PLAY
CELEBRATING THE SONGS AND LONG-TIME
FRIENDSHIP OF NOňL COWARD AND COLE PORTER

Į

 

Let's Do It! Į

 

Written and Directed by David Houston

David Houston as NoŽl (left)
 and Rick Heuthe as Cole

THE BACKSTORY

In 1954 Cole Porter was depressed and convinced he'd never again write something worthwhile Ė although paradoxically his popularity was soaring. The recent KISS ME KATE and CAN-CAN were his most popular Broadway shows ever, and he was working on the score for an all-star film, HIGH SOCIETY. NoŽl Coward's popularity, on the other hand, was sliding downward. He had revolutionized the English musical with BITTERSWEET, shocked New York and London audiences with PRIVATE LIVES, delighted Americans and Brits with BLITHE SPIRIT, won Oscars and accolades for the movies CAVALCADE, BRIEF ENCOUNTER and IN WHICH WE SERVE; but now his work was considered out of date and out of style. Unlike his old friend Cole, however, NoŽl remained confident and busy. He wrote and produced a new musical, the unsuccessful AFTER THE BALL; and he had begun negotiations on both sides of the Atlantic for revivals, recordings, and teleplays of his works. None of that was paying his tax debt.Growing desperate, the omni-talented NoŽl tried the one thing he had never attempted before: a cabaret act. To everyone's surprise, except perhaps NoŽl's, the show at a posh London club was a complete success. It attracted the interest of casino operator Wilbur Clark who asked NoŽl to perform his act in Las Vegas Ė for a lot of money.

THE PLAY

LET'S DO IT! imagines an event that might have occurred in early 1954.  Aware that his financial survival could depend upon an unqualified triumph in the desert, British NoŽl asks American Cole for assistance in selecting, adapting and testing material for a typical Las Vegas audience. They meet at NoŽl's hotel suite in Paris where they try first one song and then another Ė some Cole's some NoŽl's, some famous some obscure, some comic some sentimental Ė until NoŽl's hidden agenda surfaces: he wants to write parody lyrics to famous Porter songs.  Cole's reflex is a resounding "No!" But he eventually relents and provides NoŽl's (and our) show with its climax: Coward's outlandish lyrics to Cole Porter's "Let's Do It" Ė sung in our play by both performers, with Cole center stage and NoŽl at the piano. 

Running time is about an hour; performed without intermission.

Featured songs include: Porter's "I Love Paris," "The Physician," "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," "Tale of the Oyster," "Siberia," "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," "I'm Throwing a Ball Tonight"; Coward's "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," "I Went to a Marvelous Party," "Why Must the Show Go On?", "Play Orchestra, Play," "I'll See You Again," "Uncle Harry,"  "The Party's Over Now"; and Porter's "Let's Do It" with Coward's parody lyrics.

 

SCROLL DOWN, OR CLICK LINKS TO GO TO:

The Performers (suggested program notes)

Schedule of Performances

Basic Information and Contact

Comments and Reviews

Key events in the life and career of Cole Porter

Key events in the life and career of NoŽl Coward

Sources for LET'S DO IT!

THE PERFORMERS (suggested program notes)

DAVID HOUSTON (Writer/Director, NoŽl Coward)óhas appeared in leading roles in scores of plays and musicals, including Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, Senex in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Ben in Death of a Salesman, Herr Schultz in Cabaret and Horace Giddens in The Little Foxes.  He is a published and produced writer (14 books, 3 screenplays, 7 stage plays), fiction and non-fiction.  His original plays, including Lillie Alone, Jazz Baby Joan, Great Scott and Zelda, Murder and Madness and Poe, Fred and Adele Astaire The Last Dance, and The Dickens! have been seen at a number of Long Island libraries, schools and theatres. His Joan Crawford biography Jazz Baby (St. Martin's Press) was optioned for movie production, as was his mystery novel Shadows on the Moon.    

RICK HEUTHE(Cole Porter)óis an accomplished character actor with more than 20 years' theatrical experience.  His leading roles include Norman in The Dresser, William Detweiler in How the Other Half Loves, Sancho in Man of La Mancha, Amos in Chicago, Sir Joseph in H.M.S. Pinafore, Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace, Ernie Cusack in Neil Simon's Rumors, The Prince of Wales in The Scarlet Pimpernel and Edgar Allan Poe in Houston's Murder and Madness and Poe.  He toured with an ensemble of six in Gilbert and Sullivan a la Carte and had major roles in the world-premiere productions of The Mummy Musical (published by Dramatist's Play Service) and the popular cabaret revue Hollywood Exposed.

SCHEDULE OF PERFORMANCES

Sunday, November 7, 2010, 2:00 p.m., Riverhead Free Library
Sunday, December 5, 2010, Bethpage Public Library

Sunday, May 18, 2008, 2:00 p.m., North Merrick Public Library
Saturday, September 27, 2008, 7:00 p.m., The Montauk Library     

Saturday, January 21, 2006, 7:00 p.m., South Huntington Public Library
Sunday, March 26, 2006, 2:30 p.m., Hewlett Woodmere Public Library
Friday, March 31, 2006, 7:00 p.m., Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton
Wednesday, May 17, 2006, 1:00 p.m., Manhasset Public Library
Sunday, June 4, 2006, 2:00 p.m., Sachem Public Library, Holbrook
Thursday, June 29, 2006, 2:00 p.m., Jericho Public Library

Friday, April 1, 2005, 8:00 p.m., Towers Country Club (Seniors), Floral Park
Sunday, April 3, 2005, 2:00 p.m., West Islip Public Library
Wednesday, June 8, 2005, 2:00 p.m., Oceanside Public Library
Sunday, October 16, 2005, 2:00 p.m., Bryant Library, Roslyn
Saturday, October 22, 2005, 4:00 p.m., Peconic Landing (Seniors), Greenport
Saturday, November 5, 2005, 2:00 p.m., Jackson Heights Public Library
Saturday, November 19, 2005, 2:00 p.m., Forest Hills Public Library
Friday, September 17, 2004, 8:00 p.m., Port Washington Library
Friday, November 5, 2004, 12:30 p.m., East Meadow Public Library
Sunday, November 21, 2004, 2:30 p.m., Shelter Rock Public Library

CONTACT INFORMATION

David Houston
(516) 293-2638; DH@davidhouston.net

$350 fee includes performers, small stage setting,costumes and props, and travel
(Long Island and Queens; for fees for other locales, contact David Houston);
facility is asked to supply a piano, performance area at least 10' x 16',
basic lighting, and amplification (wireless clip-ons) if the space is large

COMMENTS AND REVIEWS

Barbara Hellering, Co-President, Friends of the Riverhead Free Library: "People have been telling the staff how much they enjoyed the show. I personally loved having a sophisticated experience." 

 

Phyllis Cox, Program Director and Publicity, Jericho Public Libray:  "Excellent.  Thank you again for a wonderful performance. You keep making me look so good! [75 patrons expected, 128 came]."

 

Frances Altemose, Head of Community Services, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook: "The program was delightful and entertaining. Top notch!  The audience was hanging on every word and had an appreciation for the clever lyrics and dialog.

 

Yvette M. Postelle, Assistant, Adult Programs, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton: "Every patron passing me as they left that evening had glowing comments.  The audience was captivated, and I noticed quite a few swaying to the music! Many said we should have more programs of this sort."

 

Nadine Connors, Cultural Programs Specialist, Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library: "There's nothing wrong with this program. When Rick sang almost to himself, that was your biggest applause, because he sang from a different perspective and drew people in."

 

Catherine Schmoller, Adult Program Coordinator, South Huntington Public Library: "Great turnout. Our audience loved the show." 

 

Staff, Queens Library Forest Hills: "Several members of the audience stopped by to comment on how much they enjoyed the play. I will be sure to pass along a recommendation for your return to Queens Library.

 

Connie Ellis, Programs, Peconic Landing Retirement Community, Greenport: "Excellent. Our audience thought you were terrific. The length of the show [one hour] was appropriate for them. Thank you! Be sure to stay in touch for future programs."  

 

Staff, Queens Library Jackson Heights: "The audience loved it. The actors were very engaging. I would heartily recommend this show."

 

Marie Courtney, Reference Librarian and Adult Services, The Bryant Library, Roslyn: "Most enjoyable. The audience loved it. It was clever, witty and entertaining."

 

Nell A. Brosnan, Librarian, West Islip Public Library: "This was a well received excellent program."

 

Anne Brady, Activities Coordinator, Towers Country Club Seniors: "Very good performance clarity and quality, and appropriateness of set and costumes." 

 

Michelle Young, Program Director, Oceanside Library: "Another great performance that kept the audience happy and riveted. Excellent on all counts." 

 

Barbara Minerd, Public Relations, Shelter Rock Public Library: "Excellent response [in a crowded room with a number of late-comers turned away]; we didn't want to miss a thing! Program directors love talented, professional and reliable performers.  I look forward to future bookings."  

 

Marci Bing, theatre professional, at West Islip Public Library: "Very entertaining and executed beautifully."

 

Jude Schanzer, Director, Public Relations and Programs, East Meadow Public Library: "A melding of artistic integrity and entertainment, an excellent program for libraries and small venues. Exceptional quality of performance."

 

Jessica Ley, Program Coordinator, Port Washington Public Library: "Once again a David Houston production captivated and delighted a full-house audience. The witty script with time-honored Porter and Coward selections was a winner."

 

Steve Lynch, Music Professional: "It's worth seeing more than once, there's so much to take in, but I guarantee everyone will remember the Oyster tune!  The show is totally charming." 

 

Patti Paris, Adult Services Librarian, Bellmore Public Library: "Not only was the performance very enjoyable (I loved the singing and piano accompaniment) but I also learned a lot about these two very interesting songwriters and their place in history." 

 

  Key events in the life and career of Cole Porter

1891

Born June 9 in Peru, Indiana
1901 Writes his first piano piece, dedicated to his mother
1909 Enters Yale; first published songs, "Bridget McGuire" and "Bingo Eli Yale"
1914 Transfers to Harvard School of Music
1916 First Broadway show See America First co-written with T. L. Riggs
1918 Meets Linda Lee Thomas
1919 Sells songs for Broadway revue Kitchy Koo of 1919; marries Linda in Paris
1922 Sells songs for two London revues and Kitchy Koo of 1922 in New York
1923 Inherits fortune from mother and grandfather (and more soon from his father)
1924 Writes songs for Greenwich Village Follies; NoŽl Coward visits the Porters at their palazzo in Venice
1927 Fanny Brice introduces Porter song "Weren't We Fools"
1928 Paris opens in New York; songs included "Let's Do It," and "Let's Misbehave"
1929 Wake Up and Dream opens in London with "What Is This Thing Called Love?" and Fifty Million Frenchmen opens in London with "You've Got That Thing," "Find Me A Primitive Man," and "The Tale of the Oyster"; Wake Up and Dream opens on Broadway
1930 The New Yorkers opens in New York with "Just One of Those Things," "Love For Sale," "I'm Getting Myself Ready for You," and "I Happen to Like New York"
1932 The Gay Divorce opens on the Broadway stage, with "Night and Day"
1933 Nymph Errant opens in London with "The Physician," and "Experiment"
1934 Movie The Gay Divorcee makes "Night and Day" immortal; Anything Goes, with Ethel Merman is a smash hit on Broadway, with the songs "I Get a Kick Out of You," "All Through the Night," "You're the Top," "Anything Goes," and "Blow Gabriel Blow" and Porter writes "Don't Fence Me In" for an unproduced movie
1935 Jubilee opens in New York with "Begin the Beguine" and "Just One of Those Things"
1936 Movie Born To Dance stars Eleanor Powell, James Stewart, with "Easy to Love" and "I've Got You Under My Skin," Red Hot and Blue opens in New York with "It's De-Lovely" and "Ridin' High" 
1937 In a severe horse-riding accident, both of Cole's legs are broken; movie Rosalie starring Eleanor Powell and Nelson Eddy, with "In the Still of the Night"
1938 You Never Know opens on Broadway with "At Long Last Love," Leave it to Me with Mary Martin is a Broadway hit with "Get Out of Town," "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love," and "My Heart Belongs To Daddy"
1939 Du Barry was a Lady starring Ethel Merman and Bert Lahr opens in New York with "Do I Love You?" "Well, Did You Evah!" and "Friendship"
1940 Panama Hattie opens in New York with Ethel Merman; Cole and Linda buy an estate in Massachusetts; movie Broadway Melody of 1940 is released with "I Concentrate on You"
1941 Hospitalized for further leg surgery; movie You'll Never Get Rich, Broadway Let's Face It
1943 Movie Something to Shout About; Something for the Boys on Broadway
1944 Broadway: Mexican Hayride with "I Love You," also Seven Lively Arts
1945 More leg surgery
1946 Movie biography of Cole Porter, Night and Day, stars Cary Grant as Cole
1947 Writes songs for movie The Pirate which is not a hit
1948 Kiss Me, Kate opens in New York and becomes longest running of all Porter shows; includes the songs "Wunderbar," "So In Love," "Why Can't You Behave," "Too Darn Hot," "Always True to You In My Fashion," and "Brush Up Your Shakespeare"
1950 Out of this World flops in New York, but contains "From This Moment On"
1951 Kiss Me, Kate opens in London; Cole is severely depressed
1953 Can-Can opens in New York and is a big hit with "C'est Magnifique," "I Am In Love," "Allez-Vous-En," "It's All Right With Me," and "I Love Paris"; movie of Kiss Me, Kate opens worldwide
  LET'S DO IT! is set in March of 1954
1954 In May, Linda Porter dies of emphysema; In the fall, Can-Can opens in London and Cole's new show Silk Stockings begins tryouts in Philadelphia
1955 Receives honorary degree, Doctor of Music, from Williams College
1956 Movie High Society (based on the play Philadelphia Story) is released and is a hit with "True Love," "You're Sensational" and Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby crooning "Well Did You Evah!"; completes songs for another movie, Les Girls
1957 Writes score for TV special Aladdin; Les Girls released
1960 Receives honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Yale
1961 Frequently hospitalized
1963 Reclusive
1964

 

Dies October 15 in Santa Monica, California

 

Key events in the life and career of NoŽl Coward

1899

Born December 16 in Teddington, Middlesex

1911

First stage appearances as a child actor
1914 Tours as Slightly in Peter Pan; collaborates with Esme Wynne on songs and stories
1916 Plays Charley in Charley's Aunt; Esme Wynne plays Amy
1918 Writes first play not a collabaration: The Rat Trap
1920 Coward comedy I'll Leave it to You is produced in London
1923 London Calling with songs and sketches by NoŽl is produced in London, and I'll Leave it to You is produced in New York; writes The Vortex and Fallen Angels
1924 Acts and tours in The Vortex in England; Writes Hay Fever and Easy Virtue
1926 Tours America  in The Vortex writes songs for Charlot Revue starring NoŽl, Beatrice Lillie and Gertrude Lawrence with the song "Parisian Pierrot" and a dance number choreographed by Fred Astaire
1928 Writes, directs, and stars in revue This Year of Grace in Britain and U.S. with the songs "World Weary," "Dance Little Lady" and "A Room With a View"
1929 Writes and directs Bittersweet hailed as ground-breaking and a major hit in England, but, due to the stock-market crash, only mildly successful in New York; includes the songs "I'll See You Again," "Zigeuner," and "If Love Were All"
1930 Writes, produces, directs, and stars in Private Lives, with Gertrude Lawrence, with the single new song "Someday I'll Find You"; a major success in London and New York; begins work on Cavalcade, an enormous pageant of English life from the Boar through Queen Victoria
1931 Completes songs for Cavalcade,with "Twentieth Century Blues"; opens at the Drury Lane and runs for 405 performances
1932 Filmed Cavalcade wins best-picture Oscar; writes book, music, and lyrics for Words and Music revue, with "Mad About the Boy" and "The Party's Over Now"
1933 Writes, stars in Design For Living in London and New York, with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne; filmed with Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Gary Cooper
1934 Writes, directs and stars in the operetta Conversation Piece in London and New York, featuring "I'll Follow My Secret Heart"
1935 Writes, directs, and stars in Tonight at 8:30 (a collection of 9 one-act plays and musicals presented on three consecutive evenings) in London, then in Boston, Washington and New York; includes songs "We Were Dancing," "Has Anybody Seen Our Ship?" "You Were There,"
1937 Writes Present Indicative, an autobiography
1938 Operette presented in London, with "Dearest Love," "The Stately Homes of England," Set To Music presented in Boston, Washington and New York with "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" and "I Went to a Marvelous Party"
1939 Writes Present Laughter and This Happy Breed; book of short stories To Step Aside is published
1940 Gives up creative pursuits to entertain troops
1941
1942
Writes, directs, composes background music score for, and stars in film In Which We Serve which is highly praised and profitable throughout the English speaking world; writes, stars, and tours in Blithe Spirit
1944 Blithe Spirit is filmed, is instantly popular (now considered a classic)
1945 Brief Encounter (from Tonight at 8:30) is filmed (now considered a classic); revue Sigh No More starring Cyril Richard, with songs "Matelot" and "Nina"
1946 Writes and directs musical Pacific 1860 starring Mary Martin, with "This is a Changing World," "I Wish I Wasn't Quite Such a Big Girl" and "Uncle Harry"
1948 Writes screenplay for The Astonished Heart; tours in French version of Present Laughter
1950 Writes Relative Values; Ace of Clubs is produced, with "Sail Away," "Nothing Can Last Forever," "I Like America"
1951 Records narrative for Carnival of the Animals; writes Quadrille, Relative Values; first London cabaret act as a charity fund-raiser is a great success, with new songs "Why Must the Show Go On?" and "A Bar on the Piccola Marina"
1952 Three plays from Tonight at 8:30 are filmed as Meet Me Tonight (not successful)
1953 Acts in George Bernard Shaw's The Apple Cart; writes and produces After the Ball (not successful)
  LET'S DO IT! is set in March of 1954
1954 Writes Nude with Violin for London and New York; writes After The Ball based on Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan produced in London only
1955 Cabaret act in Las Vegas is outstanding success and leads to other work in America including NBC's first colorcast: NoŽl and Mary Martin in Together With Music; and a cameo in film Around the World in 80 Days
1956 Blithe Spirit and This Happy Breed are adapted for American television; NoŽl Coward in New York is recorded
1957 Conversation Piece is revived Off Broadway, recorded on Columbia
1958 Composes ballet London Morning
1959 Writes Waiting in the Wings with "Come the Wild Wild Weather"
1961 Writes, directs Sail Away, starring Elaine Stritch with "You're a Long, Long Way From America," and "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?"
1963 Writes book, music and lyrics for The Girl Who Came To Supper for Broadway, starring Florence Henderson and Jose Ferrer with "Saturday Night at the Rose and Crown," "Here and Now," "The Coconut Girl," "How Do You Do, Middle Age?" "I'll Remember Her"
1964 High Spirits, musical based on Blithe Spirit but not composed by Coward, starring Tammy Grimes and Beatrice Lillie, plays in New York and London
1965 The Lyrics of NoŽl Coward is published; writes and acts in Suite in Three Keys; acts in film Bunny Lake is Missing
1971 Writes The Grand Tour for The Royal Ballet
1972 Assists in compiling his work for two retrospective revues: Cowardy Custard in London and Oh Coward! in New York
1973 Dies March 26 at his home in Blue Harbour, Jamaica

SOURCES

  • Castle, Charles; NoŽl, Doubleday & Co., Garden City, New York, 1973
  • Citron, Stephen; NoŽl and Cole, Oxford University Press, New York, 1993
  • Cook, Roderick; Oh Coward!, Doubleday & Co., New York, 1974
  • Coward, NoŽl; The NoŽl Coward Songbook, Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, 1953
  • Coward, NoŽl; Present Indicative, Doubleday Doran & Co., New York, 1937
  • Coward, NoŽl; NoŽl Coward: The Complete Lyrics, Barry Day, ed; Overlook Press, Woodstock, New York, 1998
  • Howard, Jean;Travels with Cole Porter, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1991
  • Maltin, Leonard; Movie Crazy, "Biography of a Song: 'Don't Fence Me In'" Summer, 2003
  • Marchant, William; The Privilege of his Company, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., New York, 1975
  • McBrien, William; Cole Porter, A Biography, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1998
  • Payne, Graham; My Life with NoŽl Coward, Applause Books, New York, 1994
  • Porter, Cole; The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter, ed Robert Kimball, Introduction by John Updike; Da Capo Press, New York, 1992
  • Porter, Cole; Cole Porter: 100th Anniversary, introduction by Robert Kimball; Warner Brothers Publications, Inc., Secaucus, New Jersey, 1991