COLE PORTER–NO REGRETS, Apollo Theater Center. To borrow a line from Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” crooner-monologuist Don Powell should use his mentality, wake up to reality: he can’t act or sing well enough to carry off this one-man musical about Porter’s life and work. A retired pop-music exec, writer-performer Powell has taken what might have been a diverting piano-bar set and expanded it into a two-act “biographical theater” piece that he’s simply not strong enough to sustain.
The material has promise: there are some funny anecdotes, plenty of dishy name-dropping (Monty Woolley, Elsa Maxwell, Moss Hart, “Black Jack” Bouvier, and a highly misleading reference to the Danny Kaye-Laurence Olivier relationship), and potentially powerful–but shallow and underdeveloped–accounts of Porter’s homosexual whoring around Harlem and Hollywood, his crippling equestrian accident, his bouts with alcoholism and depression, and his loving but sexless marriage to socialite Linda Lee Thomas. The revue’s 34 Porter songs–lush, literate, and laugh-out-loud hilarious–are offered in intimate conversational settings that, in the hands of a better vocalist, might have offered refreshing insights into their wit, emotional turbulence, and superb craftsmanship.
But Powell’s soggy cocktail-lounge blandness, mediocre voice, laughable pretend piano playing, and amateurishly organized script–not to mention Bain Boehlke’s clunky pacing and the cheesy production values–keep the evening stuck in neutral, leaving a Porter admirer like me vainly fighting the old ennui. Sorry, Don; I get no kick out of you.