Reviewed by Joseph Michael Mishler
You Never Know, a Cole Porter musical comedy, is making its run at Meadow Brook Theatre. This is a funny, song and dance filled musical.
Cole Porter was born in 1891 and is considered one of the most popular song writers in America. His hits include: “Begin the Beguine”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “You’re the Top”, “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)”, and many more. From the late 1920s to the 1950s, his music filled Broadway and stages across America.
You Never Know is a musical comedy about a playboy baron and his butler living in France. I would almost call this a farce. The Baron has many women and is trying to get out of a relationship with Ida because he has fallen in love with another married woman. His Butler, while making a phone call, falls in love with Maria. The Baron leaves the apartment to go with another woman and when Maria shows up at the apartment, the Butler passes himself off as the Baron. The plot is slim, even slightly stale, but still it is funny. Songs include: “By Candlelight”, “You Never Know”, “I’m Back in Circulation”, and more.
I had a level of expectation about this musical, but it didn’t quite get there Sunday as the performance seemed uneven.
The first act was a little slow and the dancing needed a bit more energy. Still, Ron Williams played the playboy Baron quite convincingly. Williams and Gaston the Butler, played by Matthew Schwartz, were a good team on stage. Their efforts brought the script to life. Both Schwartz and Williams did an excellent job even when they switched roles.
It seemed like they played more music than necessary with some of the numbers lasting a long time. The dancing used the entire stage even if it appeared overly contrived at times.
Brandi Knox played Ida, the woman the Baron was trying to get rid of. She seemed a little tentative when she first came on stage, but overall gave a good performance.
As the plot thickened, Maria, played by Sarah Parnicky, arrived at the Baron’s apartment. There are antics all through this script: Notes found by other husbands, phone calls to the wrong people, messages not delivered, people masquerading around as someone else— still, none of it was complicated. Maria believed Gaston to be the Baron, and Gaston believed her to be a high society lady. The fun began when the Baron arrived home early because he was stood up.
Parnicky did a great job of being who she was not. She was funny and her exaggerated actions nearly stole the show.
Herr Baltin, played by Anthony Guest, is a strange character. He accused the Baron (Gaston) of having an affair with his wife. He challenged everyone to a duel. Maria showed up and he proclaimed that she was not his wife. Guest was a delight to watch in this role. Although a small role, he almost stole the show, which was in some need of stealing. Convinced his wife was not there, he left. Too bad Cole Porter didn’t bring him back out.
Of course, the new love of the Baron appeared at his apartment just in time to join the game. Mme. Baltin, played by Stephanie Wahl, performed well arriving as she did in the middle of the charade. Nevertheless, the correct couples were ultimately united, including Ida and Baltin, and all was well that ended well.
They had a beautiful set to work with. The lighting was superb. The orchestra deserves strong applause because they were wonderful in their renditions of these Porter pieces.
If you are looking for good music, songs, dance, and light farcical fare, I recommend this play. You Never Know is a good production even if the script is simple and weak.
You Never Know continues through June 22 at Meadow Brook Theatre located at 207 Wilson Hall, Oakland University, Rochester MI. 48309. For tickets call 248-377-3300.