Love Noël: The Letters and Songs of Noël Coward
Footlights Theatrical presents an evening of entertainment that harkens back to a bygone era of flappers, martinis, and quick witticisms. The show stitches together songs, biography and letters that tell the story of Noël Coward’s fabulous career. It’s a loving portrait of a multi-disciplined creative force that made a huge impact on the arts for decades.
Coward’s closest relationships are revealed through their correspondence: his mother, Edna Ferber, Marlene Dietrich, Gertrude Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw and so many more of the social elite and creative innovators of his time. You also learn of his work for the British secret service during World War II. As Coward was the kind of fellow who kept his private life to himself, you learn very little of his romantic and familial relationships.
Adam Bartlett has the unenviable task of bringing the charming and witty Coward to life. Kellie Ireland plays a variety of roles throughout the show, embodying Coward’s friends, family and fans. Bartlett’s singing is on point and his acting motivated. Ireland is a skilled soprano and quite adept at impersonating the celebrities in the play. She does a great job of switching between characters and small costume amendments also support her changes. Ireland’s commitment and energy isn’t quite matched by Bartlett’s, who seems a little more laid back in his role.
The show does feel somewhat languid and at times pacing could use tightening up to help land the jokes. The pacing may just be due to some opening-night hesitation. The performers do show great trust in one another and their teamwork is lovely. They also have some very sweet interactions with the audience.
Music Director Shaeyna Day accompanies the duo on keyboard, which is positioned on stage throughout. You can imagine the producers may have loved to have been able to afford to bring in a piano, but the set design does well to mostly hide the modern instrument behind more period-appropriate décor. Staging is well balanced and evocative of the kinds of rooms one would imagine Coward inhabiting. Costuming is excellent, especially the dresses worn by Ireland.
Aside from the die-hard Coward fans out there, those who enjoy biographical musicals or those keen on vintage nostalgia are most likely to appreciate this work.