You Never Know | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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You Never Know



You Never Know, Light Opera Works, at McGaw YMCA Child Care Center Auditorium. You'd never know that Cole Porter wrote this 1938 musical comedy--his first after a crippling fall from a horse--in excruciating pain. Nothing could be more carefree than this charming trifle about a baron and his manservant who change places; a penthouse suite in the Ritz, overrun by mistaken identities and misplaced affections, becomes the perfect setting for such Porter delights as "Ridin' High" and "At Long Last Love."

Porter intended his Americanization of a popular Viennese comedy to be a chamber piece. But when it reached Broadway, nervous producers had tricked it out into a bloated spectacle, replacing several of Porter's gems with songs by second-raters. Happily, Light Opera Works' staging of Rowland Leigh's deft 1996 restoration, immaculately set in Jan Lavacek's jewel-box parlor and cleverly staged by Michael Kotze, captures Porter's good intentions and high spirits.

James Rank as the baron delivers the worldly-wise title song with smooth ease, his romantic assurance a comic contrast to Henry Michael Odum's perplexity as the suddenly ennobled valet. Odum's quicksilver impersonation, reminiscent of a young Jack Lemmon, makes his "king for a night" debauch a delightful test. Playing the lovesick ladies, Sara Stern, Sheridan Smith, and Amber Nicole Dilger prove sweetly accommodating, handsomely hoofing it up in Katrina Williams's choreography and chic indeed in Kim Fencl Rak's sleek gowns.

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