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Light and frothy High Society recycled one too many times

Soulless characters weaken politically themed Farragut North

High Society

At the Stanley until June 24 Tickets: 604.687.1644/artsclub. com

If High Society feels recycled, that's because it is. The story about socialite Tracy Lord on the eve of her marriage to thick-as-abrick George Kittredge began as the Broadway play The Philadelphia Story in 1939. The following year, Philadelphia Story was adapted for film starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart; in 1956 is was adapted again as High Society, a musical film starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. Forty years later and three decades after Porter's death, High Society was adapted yet again by Arthur Kopit as a stage musical. Several Porter songs from other musicals were added to Porter's original score. So if you think some songs have been looted from other sources, you'd be right.

It's light, it's frothy so thank goodness Bill Millerd cast vivacious Jennifer Lines and likeable Todd Talbot who have already been successfully paired in It's A Wonderful Life. For those who know Lines from her non-singing roles at Bard on the Beach, they'll be surprised to discover she sings, too.

Norman Browning shambles along hilariously as perpetually pissed Uncle Willie, but Steve Maddock, who has the best voice of the male performers, overdoes the knuckle-dragging, ape-like groom-to-be. All eagerness is Daniel Arnold as the journalist who falls for Tracy while covering her high society wedding. Arnold is charmingly awkward as the working guy who falls head over heels for the little rich girl.

Phillip Clarkson stitches up some pretty '30s frocks and Ken Cormier keeps the six-man band pumping out those Porter tunes.

Light fare-no sex, no violence -but not as swellegant as it might be.

FARRAGUT NORTH

At Havana Theatre until May 26 Ti 604-317-6394/lilli@ blankslateproductions.ca

For those who think the American election process is too long, too money-fuelled and unnecessarily complicated, this play is work. But it's an interesting look at ambition and the treachery that happens along the way to the U.S. presidency, especially in view of the ongoing Republican presidential primary campaign. The play won the Dayton Playhouse FutureFest award in 2005 and was adapted for film, directed by George Clooney and released as Oscar-nominated The Ides of March in 2011.

While playwright Beau Willimon says the subject of the play is not politics but that he uses that milieu as a platform to talk about integrity, compromise and betrayal, we're never deeply enough invested in any of the characters to move out of the political and into the more universal. Although we're supposed to believe the main character, 25year-old Stephen Bellamy (Alex-ander McMorran), has political aspirations because he wants to make the world a better place, we see no evidence that he's capable of that. As a press hack to a governor hoping to become the next U.S. president, Bellamy appears willing to play dirty tricks right from the start. His opportunistic one-night stand with intern Molly and his subsequent trashing of her, sealed the deal with me.

I don't think Nicky Anderton, directing for blank slate, could have done much more with this nasty race to the White House but she does get some fine performances, especially from McMorran and the women in the cast. Lilli Clark makes a believable journalist ready to sell her soul to get a story. And Meaghan Chenosky (Molly) is playful and flirty, although it's not clear how Molly hopes having sex with Bellamy will advance her own agenda. It's not the first time she's been in the sack with an influential scumbag, either.

If you're not already fed up with the political shenanigans south of the border or even north of the border, here's another one to shatter your illusions.

joled@telus.net