A chuckle went up from the audience on opening night of Red Hot Cole, when Jacob Woike began to sing Too Darn Hot; it was certainly toasty in the Roxy Theatre on what was likely the hottest evening of the year so far. And I dare say the men on stage, wearing jackets under the lights, were sweating buckets, even as they looked cool and suave.
The play, conceived and directed by Darcy Evans, is a love story loosely woven around Cole Porter’s songs – well-known or not-so-well-known, and is a thoroughly enjoyable evening of entertainment. The four vocalists – Sara-Jeanne Hosie, Kholby Wardell, Jennifer Gillis and Jacob Woike – work well together or separately. Graham McMonagle’s 1930-style costumes are stunning, and the musicians, comprising Brad L’Ecuyer, Ranier Roth and Jonathan Eng, keep the pace moving right along.
The stage is set up like a cabaret bar, with a few tables for audience members – very effective! Another example of audience participation is during the song Be a Clown, when a lady is brought up from the auditorium and dressed up in clown costume on stage – great fun!
Hosie and Wardell are well-matched in terms of voice and movement, and their performances are smooth and satisfying. Gillis and Woike, the ‘other couple’ are just a tad less perfect, with her singing hovering on the edge of stridency at times. A huge difference in height makes them look less like a couple and more like an adult and child. But her bubbly personality and his fabulous stage presence make up for any other possible shortcomings, and the audience is definitely happy when both relationships work out to a ‘happy ever after’ ending. Perfect summer romances for a hot Victoria night.
Red Hot Cole, the final show of Blue Bridge Theatre’s summer season, runs at the Roxy until August 13. bluebridgetheatre.ca or 250-382-3370.