Monday April 16, 07
by David Cuthbert, Times-Picayune

I gave myself a treat last week. I went to see "Getting a Kick Out of Cole," the swellegant Le Chat Noir revue of dozens of Cole Porter songs. It is actually better than it was the first time 'round last summer.

Banu Gibson, Ricky Graham and Sheelah Strong Black perform Cole Porter classics and curios with energy, élan and snappy precision. Every lyric is crystal clear, every unison movement perfectly timed to the beat of the music. And the three are so comfortable with each other onstage that they appear to be having a great time, and that spirit is infectious. How else to explain that the audience, unbidden, sings along with them?

And just as Noel Coward added teddibly naughty British lyrics to Porter's already louche "Let's Do It," Graham has infused "Cole" with some witty Crescent City references. In the opening "I'm Throwing a Ball Tonight," we hear:

I invited dear Frank Brigtsen

And his recipe for squash.

And to make a hit

I asked Brad Pitt

But he and Angelina

Had diapers to wash.

And in "Well, Did You Evah? (What a Swell Party This Is)," Gibson inquires,

Have you heard that Britney Spears

Joined the Corps of Engineers?

The trio's harmonizing is heaven-on-a-biscuit, the Gibson-choreographed dance as sassy as the song delivery. As for solos, Gibson, atop the piano, sings the hell out of the torchy "Down in the Depths (On the 90th Floor)" and has given "The Laziest Gal in Town" an entirely fresh interpretation as a baby doll-voiced floozy. Delivered by Gibson and Black, "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love (They Just Like to Kick It Around)" is a showstopper. Black's soprano is put to wonderful use with the masochistic "So In Love," and she can sock across comic numbers, too, as she proves with "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and "The Lost Liberty Blues."

Graham delights with "Love for Sale" and astonishes with a triple-time rendition of the tongue-twisting "Let's Not Talk About Love" and the "Kate the Great," which enumerates Catherine of Russia's amorous conquests. ("She made the bride, she made the groom, she made the maid who made the room. She made the Army, she made the Marines, made some of them princes and some of them queens.")

Does New Orleans realize what treasures we have in Graham and Gibson? Ricky sails from one hit entertainment to another, while Banu sings with symphonies and jazz bands all over the world. Black is a New Orleans girl who had a professional career and returned here to raise money for the CAC Performing Artists Fund. They are a terrific trio and take off into the stratosphere with the exhilarating dance number "Rap Tap on Wood" and the fast medley of Porter hits that ends the show. Accompanied by stellar pianist Jefferson Turner and an amazing young drummer named Brian Albus, who just may be the reincarnation of Gene Krupa, they're a team that generates steam.

"Getting a Kick Out of Cole" has just two more weekends to play: Tonight, Thursday, Friday and April 21 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday and April 22 at 2 p.m. It is genuinely joyous entertainment as three superb entertainers and two marvelous musicians sing, swing and zing some of the greatest popular songs ever written. Tickets are $36, which includes a $5 drink credit. Call (504) 581-5812.