'A Cole Porter Songbook' at Theo Ubique Theatre Company ★★★½

Vocal quality really matters at the Theo Ubique Theatre Company, the shabby-chic venue for small musicals in Rogers Park, so it's no surprise that director Fred Anzevino's simple but delightful and lovely new summer Cole Porter revue is beautifully sung. But familiarity with this special, no-dress-code place does not compromise the sheer pleasure of perching oneself on a bar stool or at a cramped table, feeling the warm breeze from the street and "L" tracks outside, and experiencing the only-in-Chicago auditory combination of "Let's Misbehave," sung with passionate enthusiasm, and the words "doors closing," spoken with, well, comforting CTA certitude.

For romantics, such a blend is inclined to prompt a feeling of warm fulfillment and a determination never to belong to anywhere else. Working with the skillful and youthful arranger Aaron Benham and a three-piece combo, Anzevino has eschewed the extant Porter revues, none of which is that great, in favor of his own creation, which packs a couple dozen Porter ditties into two hours of stage traffic in the capable hands of performers Jill Sesso (a real vocal powerhouse), Christopher Logan (ever earnest in execution yet light on his toes), William Lucas (a charmer) and Sierra Naomi Nibbe (a very sensual newcomer with considerable chops).

One gets far more choreography (wittily done by David Heimann) than one expects from such small revues.

Frankly, it's a bit of a relief to be able to enjoy such a droll performance of "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" without having to sit through the entire duration of "Kiss Me Kate." But the greatest-hits attributes are not the main appeal of this particular "Cole Porter Songbook." Even though there are no spoken words or explicit settings, Anzevino and Benham somehow manage to make this show into a strikingly profound meditation on Porter's artistry. There's something about these particular actors, this particular direction, this particular venue that strips away a lot of the usual varnish.

Porter was, of course, a master of the double-entendre, a skill deftly exploited here, along with the lively expression of the humor of "Anything Goes" and so on.

But there is an obfuscation and melancholy behind so many of these songs, a spirit of unfulfilled longing and latent desire. When this cast performs "So in Love" — gorgeously — that's all you can think about as you sit in the No Exit Cafe, pondering the passing of another summer in the city to the soundtrack of a bygone era.

cjones5@tribune.com

Twitter@ChrisJonesTrib

When: Through July 21

Where: No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave.

Running time: 2 hours

Tickets: $29-$59 at 800-595-4849 or theo-u.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge
    Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge

    An argument over a woman led to one man being killed and another wounded during a shooting inside a South Loop music lounge early Saturday, police said.

  • Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise
    Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise

    Members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity apparently learned a racist chant that recently got their chapter disbanded during a national leadership cruise four years ago that was sponsored by the fraternity's national administration, the university's president said Friday.

  • In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing
    In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing

    Someone may have improperly tapped a gas line before an explosion that leveled three apartment buildings and injured nearly two dozen people, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday as firefighters soaked the still-smoldering buildings and police searched for at least two missing people.

  • Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden
    Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reduced spending and increased fines, fees and certain taxes to shrink the chronic budget deficits left over from his predecessor, Richard M. Daley.

  • Six Flags Great America's lost attractions
    Six Flags Great America's lost attractions

    Not every ride's the Willard's Whizzer. That iconic coaster debuted in 1976 when Marriott's Great America, now Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee, Ill., first opened. And it's still popular today. But for every Whizzer there's a Tidal Wave, Shockwave or Z-Force, rides existing only in memory.

  • Denim's just getting started
    Denim's just getting started

    Five years ago, denim-on-denim defied all of the dire warnings in the "Undateable" handbook: Instead of evoking John Denver or Britney Spears in her misstyled youth, chambray shirts paired with darker blue jeans became as cool as actor Johnny Depp and street-style heroine Alexa Chung.

Comments
Loading