LOVE, LINDA - Triad Theatre

The charming, sophisticated and elegant Mrs. Cole Porter is on stage at Triad Theater, Upper West Side. Well, the charming, sophisticated and elegant Stevie Holland is on stage playing her in Love, Linda: The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter. Holland inhabits the part, having researched and co-written the play with Gary William Friedman. From a blueblood Kentucky family, Linda rescues herself from an abusive first marriage, flees to Paris where she meets the young Cole (10 years her junior), and with no illusions about his sexuality falls madly in love and stays with him (except for a brief separation) until her premature death (too many cigarettes, darling). Holland and Friedman's insightful book, seamlessly melded around 18 wonderful Porter tunes, takes the Porter pair of swells from Paris, to Venice, back to New York, and then Hollywood. Linda shares lots of backstage and social gossip, and doesn't hold back about Cole's boyfriends, the ones she liked and those she didn't.

The guys on drums, bass and piano create the perfect cabaret sound from the cozy Triad stage. Holland's voice is cabaret perfect, too, as is her lyrical precision for each delicious Porter bon mot. There's some hidden song gems, but plenty of Cole's most famous if you're not totally versed in the Porter songbook. My favorites: Miss Otis Regrets, In the Still of the Night and My Heart Belongs to Daddy. But the highlight was Night and Day. Holland digs deep into it: Mrs. Porter's life wasn't all champagne and caviar: She held onto wit and an unfailing emotional devotion to Cole - and Cole "always true to (Linda) in (his) fashion", too. Richard Maltby directs with the lightest touch of show-biz panache for the classy lady.

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