For fans of classic Hollywood, it doesn’t get much better than the 1940 comedy The Philadelphia Story. The cast includes Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord, the reckless society dame who has them all in a frenzy. The film was so successful that it spawned not a sequel but instead an MGM film musical version called High Society in 1956. The music was chosen from existing songs by Cole Porter, and the cast this time? Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Grace Kelly. Finally, in 1998, playwright Arthur Kopit took hold of the now-venerable property and steered it onto a Broadway stage in an adaptation that will be running at Santa Barbara City College’s Garvin Theatre from July 12-29.
High Society director R. Michael Gros, associate professor of theater at SBCC, has a Katherine in his cast as well, Katherine Bottoms, and she will be playing, singing, and dancing up a storm as Tracy Lord in one of the Theatre Group’s most ambitious productions yet. “One of the risks is that people already have these famous players in their heads,” says Gros, who has deliberately avoided watching the whole film in order to preserve his sense of what the look and feel of the show should be.
One of the most exciting aspects of this production is how much dance it will include. Tracy Kofford, SBCC professor of dance, has joined the cast and is working alongside the principals to craft intricate numbers for them and for the ensemble. The cinematic set is by Pat Frank, and Pamela Shaw has created some outstanding period costumes. Santa Barbara newcomer Darren Bluestone brings national experience and a measure of YouTube fame to his leading role, and director Gros sees the show as an opportunity for both the cast and the audience to “exhale and laugh” during a period when “the world around us is beating us up.” For tickets and information, visit theatregroupsbcc.com or call 965-5935.