BY PATRICIA MORISON
Cole was a very, very dear friend and he was very helpful to me. For some reason or other, I think he liked me, so I didn’t let him down. He used to come to rehearsals nearly every day, elegantly dressed with a flower in his buttonhole. And he’d sit in a chair in the middle aisle and listen. He had a thing about hearing a lyric. We didn’t have microphones then and you weren’t supposed to shout or scream, you were supposed to use your voice properly, but if he couldn’t hear something, he’d toot a little whistle that he carried around and say, “I didn’t hear that last lyric.” As sophisticated as Cole Porter was, his songs were easy to sing because he was such a terrific artist.
We rehearsed at the New Amsterdam Theatre. If something new was needed during rehearsals, Cole would climb up to the old piano on the stage in his elegant suit with his bad leg and he’d write something else for us, right then and there. He wrote one lyric for “I Hate Men” that we never used. I still have it on his letterhead from when we were in Philadelphia:
Avoid my dear the British peer who gives thine ear a jawful
You’ll settle down in London town and live in wedlock lawful
Your relations may be pleasant, quite, but his are always awful.
When I was in drama school at the Neighborhood Playhouse, I took dance with Martha Graham. I never danced professionally, but I would use it in my performance. When I was rehearsing “I Hate Men,” everyone who heard those lyrics told me, “When you sing that song, it’s going to make you look terrible.” So I went to Cole and I told him that everyone in the cast thought that I shouldn’t be singing this song. He said, “Patricia, I remember a Victor Herbert operetta called ‘Mlle Modiste’ where there was a guy sitting at a table with a tankard in his hand, singing ‘I want what I want when I want it’ and then, bang!” And he said, “You just hit that tankard on something and don’t worry.”
In our next installment of Patricia Morison’s memories, she recalls working out her “battle” scenes with Alfred Drake, who played her egotistical ex-husband, Fred Graham.
“Kiss Me, Kate,” produced by Cabrillo Music Theatre, begins the first of nine shows Friday night. For dates and showtimes, see the VC On Stage Calendar of Events.