High Society

A TAMS-WITMARK TITLE

Full Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy  /  4f, 5m

Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter / Book by Arthur Kopit / Additional Lyrics by Susan Birkenhead / Based on the play “The Philadelphia Story” by Philip Barry / Also based on the Turner Entertainment Co. motion picture High Society / Original Broadway Production Produced by: Lauren Mitchell and Robert Gailus, Hal Luftig and Richard Samson, Dodger Endemol Theatricals in association with Bill Haber / Originally Produced by American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco, CA. Carey Perloff, Artistic Director, Heather Kitchen, Managing Director

Cole Porter’s sparkling musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story, Phillip Barry’s celebrated 1939 romantic comedy, glitters with wit and sophistication.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

High Society
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OVERVIEW

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    4f, 5m
  • Duration
    Duration
    More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre
    Subgenre
    Adaptations (Stage & Screen), Period, Romantic Comedy
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    • Appropriate for all audiences
Accolades
Accolades
  • NOMINEE: Two 1998 Tony Awards
    NOMINEE: Four 1998 Drama Desk Awards, including Outsstanding New Musical
    WINNER! 1998 Theatre World Award (Anna Kendrick)
Description
At their waterfront estate in Oyster Bay, the Lord family prepares for a lavish wedding weekend. The reluctant bride-to-be, famed socialite Tracy Lord, bristles when her playful ex-husband Dexter arrives to stir up trouble. Juggling a precocious younger sister, an uninspiring fiancé, a pesky ex-husband, a harried mother, a carousing uncle, and a pair of snooping reporters, Tracy struggles to make sense of her romantic life. The score is packed with Cole Porter standards, including “Ridin’ High,” “She’s Got That Thing,” “True Love,” “Just One Of Those Things,” “Let’s Misbehave,” “It’s All Right With Me,” and “Well, Did You Evah?”
History
High Society opeend on Broadway at the St. James Theatre on Apr 27, 1998, starring Melissa Errico, Daniel McDonald, Randy Graff, Stephen Bogardus and John McMartin. It was revived in London at the Old Vic Theatre in 2015.
Keywords

Act I

We meet Tracy Lord’s harried mother (throwing a wedding for five hundred will do that to you), Tracy’s grumpily precious younger sister, Dinah (she’s grumpy because Tracy is marrying George Kittredge, the dullest man on earth), and, finally, the ecstatic bride-to-be, society’s darling, Tracy Lord herself (“Ridin’ High”). But at breakfast, moments after Tracy reminds absent-minded Uncle Willie (whose house borders their estate) that “You’re Throwing a Ball” Tonight, her good mood ends: Dexter, her despised first husband (and Dinah’s favorite person in the world), has come back! What’s more he’s sailed back in the True Love — a boat that holds only painful memories for Tracy, and anchored it right off shore, by his house (Dexter is also their neighbor).

Now Dexter tells Tracy and her family something that really stuns them. A pair of reporters for a scandal magazine called SpyMike Connor and Liz Imbrie, will be attending Tracy’s wedding, masquerading as guests; in fact, they should be arriving any moment. Dexter invited them; it was the only way he could stop Spy from publishing an expose of Tracy’s father’s (Seth’s) affair with dancer Tina Mara. When Dexter asks where Seth is, Tracy tells him Mother kicked him out. And he’s not invited to the wedding either. Incensed by the indignity of having reporters in her house, Tracy rushes off to plot mischief, her mother races after her, worried, leaving Dinah with Dexter, whom she assumes has really come to steal Tracy away from George. But Dexter insists he hasn’t, and she rushes off distraught. So he rushes after her, hoping to make amends (“Little One”).

Mike Connor and Liz Imbrie arrive (“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”). Tracy and Dinah greet them with grotesque affectation, then sing a peculiar version of “I Love Paris,” after which Dinah leaves and Tracy interrogates them witheringly (a famous Barry scene). Afterwards, in the pavilion for cocktails, Tracy, fearing the reporters may guess the true reason her father isn’t there, introduces Uncle Willie as if he were her father. Then, when her actual father arrives, Tracy introduces him as Uncle Willie. Later, with George and Dexter joining the mayhem, Uncle Willie (as Seth) sings “She’s Got That Thing” in response to Mike’s totally innocent question about the secret of Tina Mara’s allure. After which they all go to lunch.

Later, Tracy’s world unravels even more. It happens by the pool. Dexter is the culprit, mercilessly stripping away her illusions of perfection. By act’s end she is alone and confused- about George (suddenly he seems so pompous), about Mike (he suddenly seems so sweet), about her father (how can Mother even think of forgiving him?) Staring out at the True Love, she remembers her blissful honeymoon cruise with Dexter on that very yacht, conjures up that Dexter of old, and, along with him, sings “True Love.” When Mike enters to remind her about Uncle Willie’s party (guests are already arriving) the memory fades. Mike leaves. Tracy picks up a bottle of champagne – a drink she’s sworn off, since (according to Dexter) she tends to do wildly uncharacteristic things when she drinks it – and starts gulping it down.

Act II

When Act Two opens we’re at Uncle Willie’s house, it’s 4 a.m. and the last guest has gone home. Tracy won’t stand for it! Guzzling champagne as if there were no tomorrow, she insists – despite George’s protests – that the party must go on, which at this point means dancing with the staff (“Let’s Misbehave”). George storms out, mortified. Dinah, thrilled, races off to find Dexter. Tracy, quickly wearing out the staff, dances off with Mike, leaving Liz to handle lecherous Uncle Willie, whom she still believes is Seth (“I’m Getting Myself Ready for You”).

At Dexter’s house, Dexter, packing to leave, sings “It Was Just One of Those Things.” Dinah rushes in, sees what he’s planning and calls him a coward. When he says there’s nothing he can do, so why stay on, three magic words change his mind: She’s drinking champagne.

Back at Uncle Willie’s, the staff is in the kitchen when Tracy runs in, hears George and hides. (“Well, Did You Evah?”) Enter George. The staff covers. Exit George. Enter Liz, who hides with Tracy. Enter Uncle Willie. Again, the staff covers. Exit Willie. Tracy and Liz emerge. Thinking Uncle Willie is returning, Liz flees. But it’s George who comes back. Reluctantly, Tracy leaves with him. Neither of them notices Mike, clutching a champagne bottle, following George.

Outside, George reminds Tracy they’ve a rather big day tomorrow, or has she forgotten? She looks puzzled. Mike arrives. “Well, I certainly haven’t forgotten.” George tells her he’s going to assume this behavior won’t happen again, and stalks off. Mike tells Tracy she can’t marry that guy; he’s not good enough for her. Outraged, she calls him a snob. In response, he sings “You’re Sensational,” then kisses her. “Golly,” she says. (In the distance, revelers sing “Let’s Misbehave.”) She asks if he’d like to go for a swim. He says he doesn’t have a suit. She says, “You won’t need one; Dexter and I always swam after parties.”

And with that, she dashes off, Mike, champagne bottle in hand, racing after her.
Dexter and Dinah arrive to see Mike chasing Tracy through the woods, Tracy’s father chasing his wife, and Uncle Willie chasing Liz. Along the way, Dexter and Uncle Willie have a heart-to-heart (“Say It with Gin”). Finally, Mike catches up to Tracy at the pool (“It’s All Right with Me”).

Dexter, sitting on a patio near the pool, sees Liz wander by. Yes, he does know where Mike is. A sudden splashing is heard. Liz handles it well (“He’s a Right Guy”). Feeling for Liz, he explains about the Seth/Uncle Willie charade and the blackmail threat against the real Seth that underlies it all. Liz, incensed, says she’ll handle it and leaves. Then George shows up looking for Tracy. A moment later, Mike enters carrying Tracy, who’s feeling no pain and wearing only a robe. George is stunned. Mike says, “Seems the moment she hit the water, the champagne hit her.” Dexter stops George from punching Mike, gets Mike to take Tracy to her room, then reassures George in a way that only increases George’s worst suspicions.

The next morning, Tracy has a vague memory of being in a pool last night with someone other than George, as George can’t swim. When Mike enters, she realizes who it was, decides she obviously made love to him and therefore all is over. But of course it isn’t, and by the end George is gone, Tracy’s mother and father have mended things, the blackmail threat is removed, Mike’s realized Liz means more to him than he’d ever imagined, and Tracy, that it’s Dexter she loves and has always loved. With a wedding set but no bridegroom in sight, Dexter volunteers. Is he sure? Samantha shows he is and a reprise of “True Love” that this time it’s going to last. Dinah seems especially pleased. Like Puck, she’s had a hand in it all.

 - Arthur Kopit                            

Considerations

Performing Groups
  • High School/Secondary
  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Dinner Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups
  • Church / Religious Groups
Cautions
  • Alcohol

Licence details

  • Licensing fees and rental materials quoted upon application.

Specifics

Details

  • Time Period: 1930s
  • Duration: More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Setting: The Lord estate in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. June 1938.
  • Additional Features: Not Applicable
  • Features / Contains: Period Costumes

Casting

4f, 5m
Cast Attributes
  • Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle)
Principals
(4 female; 5 male)

Tracy Samantha Lord, a wealthy daughter about to be married
Dinah Lord, Tracy’s little sister, 13 years old
Mother Lord (Margaret), Tracy’s mother
Liz Imbrie, a magazine photographer

Seth Lord, Tracy’s father
Dexter C.K. Haven, a neighbor of the Lords
Mike (Macaulay) Connor, a journalist
Uncle Willie, host of Tracy’s pre-wedding ball
George Kittredge, Tracy’s husband-to-be

Ensemble

SATB chorus of 4 maids and 4 butlers

Music

  • Musical Style: Classic Broadway
  • Dance Requirements: Easy
  • Vocal Demands: Difficult
  • Orchestra Size: Medium
  • Chorus Size: Small

Act I

1. Overture – Orchestra
2. “High Society” / “Ridin' High” – Staff & Tracy
3. “Throwing A Ball Tonight” – Mother Lord, Tracy, Willie, Dinah & Staff
4. “Little One” – Dexter & Dinah
5. “The Train” – Staff
6. “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” – Liz & Mike
7. “I Love Paris” – Dinah, Tracy & Chester
7a. “Tennis” – Staff
8. “She’s Got That Thing” – Willie, Dexter, & Staff
9. “Finale Act One” – Tracy, Dexter & Staff

Act II

12. Entr’acte – Orchestra
13. “Well, Did You Evah?” – Mike, Liz, Dexter & Chester
14. “Let’s Misbehave” – Tracy, Mike, Liz, Mother Lord, Seth, Willie & George
15. The Dance Band – Orchestra
15a. Let’s Misbehave Tag – Orchestra
16. “Just One Of Those Things” – Dexter
16a. Lantern Ballet (Scene Change) – Orchestra
17. “You’re Sensational” – Mike
17a. “Let’s Misbehave” Underscore – Staff, Dexter & Mother Lord
17b. “Say It With Gin” – Willie
17c. “Gin Transition & All Right Intro” – Mother Lord, Staff, Mike & Tracy
18. “It’s All Right With Me” – Tracy
18a. “Let’s Misbehave Crossover” – Staff
19. “He’s A Right Guy” – Liz
20. “Wedding Bells” – Staff
21. “Finale Act Two” – Company
22. Bows – Company
23. Exit Music – Orchestra

Full Orchestration

Reed 1 – Flute, Clarinet, Alto Saxophone
Reed 2 – Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone
Reed 3 – Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
Trumpet 1 in Bb (Doubling Flügelhorn)
Trumpet 2 in Bb (Doubling Flügelhorn)
Trombone
Guitar (Doubling Banjo)
Keyboard (Synthesizer)
Violin (Doubling Viola)
Bass
Percussion I:
Timpani
Xylophone
Marimba
Crotales
Vibraphone
Glockenspiel
Triangle
Tubular Bells (Chimes)
Bell Tree
Siren Whistle
Mark Tree
Maracas
Bongos
Piatti
Suspended Cymbal
Shaker

Percussion II:
Trap Set
Triangle
Sizzle Cymbal
China Cymbal
Splash Cymbal
Wood Block
Cowbell
Bongos

Accordion – Onstage, for “I Love Paris” only (included in Libretto/Vocal Book)

Materials

Scripts

FORMATS AVAILABLE:

Rehearsal Resources

Music Material Rental Packages Glyphs / UI / Tooltip

Full Package:
1 Piano/Conductor Score
19 Libretto/Vocal Book
1 Reed 1
1 Reed 2
1 Reed 3
1 Trumpet 1
1 Trumpet 2
1 Trombone
2 Percussion 1&2
1 Guitar
1 Keyboard
1 Violin
1 Bass

Piano Only:
1 Piano/Conductor Score
19 Libretto/Vocal Book

Additional Material:
A Full Score is available for this title for an additional fee. Please contact your licensing representative for additional information.

Additional Resources And Services Available

Media

Music Samples

Photos

  • High Society

    Credit: Tristram Kenton

  • High Society

    Credit: Tristram Kenton

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Authors

Cole Porter

Cole Porter was born in Peru, Indiana in 1891 and died in Hollywood 73 years later. In between, he wrote some of the most memorable songs ever heard on stage or screen, among them “Night and Day,” “Begin the Beguine,” “You’re The Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Love For Sale,” and “Just One of Those Things.” D ...

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Arthur Kopit

Arthur Kopit is the author of the plays Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung you in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad; Indians (Tony Nominee, finalist for Pulitzer prize); Wings (Tony Nominee, finalist for Pulitzer prize); End of the World, with Symposium to Follow; a new translation of Ibsen’s Gh ...

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Susan Birkenhead

Susan Birkenhead received a Tony Nomination, a Grammy nomination, and a Drama Desk Award for her lyrics for Jelly's Last Jam. She was nominated for a Drama Desk for Triumph of Love. She was one of the writers nominated for a Tony award for Working, and won an Outer Critics Circle award for What About Luv? She wrote ...

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Philip Barry

One of the most gifted writers of American comedy, wrote over twenty plays for the Broadway stage including such hits as The Philadelphia Story, Without Love (both with Katherine Hepburn), Foolish Notion (with Tallulah Bankhead), Hotel Universe, Paris Bound, Here Comes the Clowns and The Animal Kingdom. Although he ...

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