Cole Porter in Hollywood: The John Wilson Orchestra (The Dome, Brighton, November 10th 2014)

Well, did you evah – what a swell concert this was! I started my review of the John Wilson Orchestra playing Cole Porter with that line because that’s the name of a Cole Porter song from the musical High Society, and it was included in the concert.

Anything goes when it comes to the John Wilson Orchestra playing Cole Porter. Actually it doesn’t, but that’s the name of another Cole Porter musical.

All I can say to the John Wilson Orchestra is “You’re the top!” not only because that’s the name of another well known Cole Porter song, but also because it’s true of this concert which is one of the very best shows I have ever seen at The Dome.

John Wilson is the most genial of conductors. I think he’s related to former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, as they both have a northern accent, though John Wilson certainly didn’t smoke a pipe or try to run the country during the concert itself – although what he does in the privacy of his dressing room is entirely his business.

The conductor (this is John Wilson, not the bus conductor who was driving my bus home after the concert and asked me about Mary Berry’s Scandinavian Princess cake recipe which caught me a little on the hop as I was googling Robert Donat on my phone at the time) has made a name for himself at the Proms and elsewhere for his amazing performances of an array of Hollywood film soundtracks, and at this one I knew quite a lot of them – even those not performed by The Rattatatonians or in Forbidden Broadway.

There were some of Cole Porter’s classic hit songs – from Begin the Begin (which I think is tautology, but Cole Porter obviously knew what he was doing, which just goes to show how professional he was), to Wunderbar which was sung by Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel in the film Kiss Me Kate, though they weren’t on stage at Brighton.

There were four very good singers: Anna-Jane Casey, who I have only recently seen in Forbidden Broadway, so it just goes to show what a seasoned professional she is, being able to perform in two shows at the same time; Matthew Ford, who we were told in the programme makes regular appearances with the John Wilson Orchestra, which is quite a coincidence because he was performing at this concert; Richard Morrison,  an opera singer who started up the well-known supermarket chain; and Scarlett Strallen, one of Bonnie Langford’s 97 family members currently appearing in hit shows.

Among my favourite songs were Stereophonic Sound, which I think John Wilson explained was sung by Sid Charisse when he was putting his stockings on after giving up Communism; Where is the Life That Late I Led, a song from Kiss Me Kate that made me laugh so much I spilled my Ribena carton over the gentleman sat in front of me; and Les Girls, which was the first draft of the hit musical Les Miserables.

The orchestra was in top form too. John Wilson invited us to look up all their names in the brochure and start up a correspondence with the ones we liked, which I might do as I never hear anything from Robert Powell (who played Jesus on TV) even though I have sent him numerous letters following his appearance as Poirot in Black Coffee at Eastbourne.

I was particularly impressed when one of the percussionists whipped out his bongos, which made me a little hot and bothered so I had to slip out and buy a dirty Martini with ice.

When I got home I turned the TV on and what should be on but an episode of Who Wants To be a Millionaire? with Chris Tarrant – and that was the name of one of the songs in the show! What a coincidence.

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