Cole Porter, one of the most cherished contributors to the Great American Songbook, lives on through his many standards, from “Anything Goes” to “You’re Sensational.” Born in Peru, Ind., in 1891, he receives an anniversary tribute when Ravinia presents “You’re the Top! Cole Porter’s 125th Birthday Celebration” with host-pianist-vocalist Kevin Cole and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Alan Miller, on Aug. 17. Joining them will be vocalists Sylvia McNair, Klea Blackhurst and dancer Ryan VenDenBoom.
Acclaimed for his interpretations of the Great American Songbook, Kevin Cole has a special affinity for Porter’s works. He’s hosted and performer at many musical tributes to the composer, including his own production, “Around the World with Cole Porter.”
Here’s an annotated set list for “You’re the Top!”
“Cole-verture” for Orchestra: Featuring excerpts from Porter’s “You’re the Top,” “I Concentrate on You,” “You Do Something to Me,” “I Get a Kick out of You,” “Begin the Beguine” and “Easy to Love” (arr. Brian Eads).
“You’re the Top” from Anything Goes (arr. Hans Spialek)
Introduced by Broadway icon Ethel Merman in the 1934 musical, it’s one of the best examples of a “list” song, “songs whose lyrics rely heavily (if not wholly) on an agenda of like-minded items,” according to the Library of Congress.
Gavotte from DuBarry Was a Lady (arr. Edward Powell)
“Please Don’t Monkey with Broadway” from Broadway Melody of 1940 (arr. David Snyder)
Introduced in the MGM film “Broadway Melody of 1940,” it’s one of several standards (including “Begin the Beguine” and “I Concentrate on You”) written for this movie (where it was sung by Fred Astaire and George Murphy).
“In the Still of the Night” from Rosalie (arr. Kevin Cole)
Written for the 1937 MGM film version of the 1928 musical, it was first sung by Nelson Eddy. Interestingly, Cole Porter was hired to craft new songs and lyrics for the MGM film, which completely scrapped the original music by Sigmund Romberg, lyrics by P.D. Wodehouse — and songs by George and Ira Gershwin!
“Let’s Do It” from Paris (arr. Kevin Cole)
Another one of Porter’s famous “list” songs, this number was written for the 1928 musical “Paris” starring French singer Irène Bordoni. It also appeared in the film version of Porter’s “Can-Can” (1960).
“The Physician” from Nymph Errant (arr. Buddy Bregman/David Snyder)
Porter considered this 1993 musical — about an English lady determined to lose her virginity — his favorite; Gertrude Lawrence introduced “The Physician” in the original West End staging.
“Don’t Fence Me In” from Hollywood Canteen (arr. David Snyder)
Originally written in 1934 for a 20th Century-Fox musical that was scrapped, the song was reborn in the movie revue “Hollywood Canteen” (1944) and popularized by cowboy star Roy Rogers.
“Anything Goes” from Red, Hot and Blue (arr. Kevin Cole)
Arguably Porter’s signature song, it charted most recently in 2014 when Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga covered the tune on their “Cheek to Cheek” duets album.
“Night and Day” Variations for Piano (arr. Don Walker)
An instrumental version of another definitive Porter ballad, this song was introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1932 musical “Gay Divorce” (retitled “The Gay Divorcee” for the 1943 film version).
“The Leader of a Big-Time Band” from Something for the Boys (arr. Robert Russell Bennett)
Another song introduced by Ethel Merman, this number serves as the first-act finale of the 1943 musical “Something for the Boys.”
Overture to Kiss Me, Kate (arr. Brian Eads)
Porter’s version of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” this 1948 musical proved to be his most popular (and won the first Tony for best musical in 1949).
“So in Love” from Kiss Me, Kate (arr. Philip J. Lang)
Introduced in the musical by Patricia Morison (still alive at age 101), it has been covered from stars ranging from Julie Andrews to Caetano Veloso.
Overture to Can-Can (arr. Philip J. Lang)
Set in Montmartre dance halls during the Belle Epoque, the musical made a star of a young Gwen Verdon.
“I Love Paris” from Can-Can (arr. Buddy Bregman/ David Snyder)
The de facto theme song of Porter’s 1953 musical, it’s the ultimate ode to “The City of Lights.”
“It’s All Right with Me” from Can-Can (arr. André Previn/ Al Woodbury)
One of Porter’s most beautiful ballads, it was introduced in his 1953 musical “Can-Can,” and memorably sung by Frank Sinatra in the 1960 film version of the show.
“Stereophonic Sound” from Silk Stockings (arr. Brian Eads)
Introduced by Gretchen Wyler in the 1955 musical (the last that Porter ever wrote for the stage), it’s one of the work’s underappreciated numbers.
“Ev’rytime We Say Goodbye” from Seven Lively Arts (arr. David Snyder)
Porter at his most wistful, this song was first sung by Nan Wynn in the 1944 musical “Seven Lively Arts” and later covered by Sideshow Bob (Kelsey Grammer) on the animated sitcom “The Simpsons.”
“Friendship” from DuBarry Was a Lady
One of the biggest hits of the 1939 musical, it was memorably revived for an episode of the ’50s sitcom “I Love Lucy.”
For more details about the program, click here.