COWARDLY THINGS: an unforgettable theatrical experience

Reflections and inspirations from all things Noel Coward
Directed by Michael Phillis
July 8-31
New Conservatory Theatre Center
25 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA

Sarcastic or sentimental, bitchy or sweet,
There has never been anyone quite like him.
John Kander

If you see no other production this summer, you must get out of your chair, shut the TV and expand your mind with Cindy Goldfield and Scrumbly Koldewyn in their intelligent and mind stretching production COWARDLY THINGS. This is a cabaret that is more than its music, better than its lyrics and finer than the themes the combination of song and dance presents: it is an unforgettable gem: a musical and social statement that casts a searing light on the human condition and the lies we tell ourselves about who we really are. The show is directed by the award winning actor, playwright and solo performer Michael Phillis but one cannot tell if it is his direction or the chemistry of these two talented performers that makes this cabaret such a memorable event. I suspect it is both. The set was designed by Kuo-Hao Lo and it is a masterpiece of understatement: elegant, tasteful and never intrusive. It completes the show’s statement but never overwhelms the movement or the mood of the production.

The songs were chosen to offer a musical exploration of Noel Cowards works with a few additions that are composed in his spirit. Noel Coward’s wit and social commentary delighted audiences for six decades until his death in 1973. He is recognized as a master showman, one of the finest talents of the Twentieth Century. It is amazing how this particular selection of over thirty tunes speaks to us as urgently today as each song did when it was written. The two singers added two songs by Sandy Wilson from The Boyfriend ( A Room in Bloomsbury & Poor Little Pierrette), songs by Rogers & Hart and a few others with a nice smattering of Cole Porter. The show ends with the unforgettable Cole Porter masterpiece, You Don’t Know Paree.

Goldfield and Koldewyn have been performing together since 1994 and the chemistry between them is magic on every level. They received the Dean Goodman Choice Award for Cabaret performance in 2000 and celebrated their 10th anniversary show at NCTC in 2004. They revive an often ignored tradition of elegant, sophisticated presentation, done is perfect taste.

This is a show that must be seen and heard to be properly appreciated. Words alone cannot recreate the spell cast by these two very talented artists. Koldewyn was the founding member of The Cockettes and his first original show tunes were for their shows. His musical The Cockettes’ Pearls Over Shanghai is currently enjoying a revival at the Hypnodrome in San Francisco. Goldfield is a two time recipient of both the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and the Dean Goodman Choice awards. These two performers sing, dance and present us with a musical feast so delicious, one hates to see it end. “When we began the work of putting together this show, we began to see things with our usual Goldfield & Koldewyn slant- to deconstruct and tangentialize, to take a cue from his mad social commentary on everything under the sun, to sing a Coward song and see where it leads us.”

It leads the audience into an evening of delight…superb music, provocative lyrics in a setting to die for performed by two superbly gifted human beings. Don’t miss his show. It is a jewel.
The wit and wisdom of Noel Coward's lyrics will be as lively
and contemporary in 100 years' time as they are today.
Tim Rice

When: July 8-31, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm in NCTC’s Theater 3
Tickets: $20-$28 available at 415 861 8972;