High Society


Cole Porter’s sparkling musical adaptation of Phillip Barry’s 1939 romantic comedy The Philadelphia Story glitters with wit and sophistication. At their waterfront estate in Oyster Bay, the Lord family prepares for a lavish wedding weekend. The reluctant bride-to-be, famed socialite Tracy Lord, bristles when her playful ex-husband Dexter arrives to stir up trouble. Juggling a precocious younger sister, an uninspiring fiancé, a pesky ex-husband, a harried mother, a carousing uncle, and a pair of snooping reporters, Tracy struggles to make sense of her romantic life.

The score is packed with Cole Porter standards, including “Ridin’ High,” “She’s Got That Thing,” “True Love,” “Just One Of Those Things,” “Let’s Misbehave,” “It’s All Right With Me,” and “Well, Did You Evah?”

Music samples courtesy of DRG Records and Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
Photos courtesy of The Old Vic, London (photographer: Johan Persson)

  • Synopsis
  • Credits
  • Orchestration
  • Materials
  • Cast
  • History
  • Musical Numbers
  • Upcoming
  • Act I

    We meet Tracy Lord’s harried mother (throwing a wedding for five hundred will do that to you), Tracy’s grumpily precious younger sister, Dinah (she’s grumpy because Tracy is marrying George Kittredge, the dullest man on earth), and, finally, the ecstatic bride-to-be, society’s darling, Tracy Lord herself (“High Society”/“Ridin’ High”). But at breakfast, moments after Tracy reminds absent-minded Uncle Willie (whose house borders their estate) that “You’re Throwing a Ball” Tonight, her good mood ends: Dexter, her despised first husband (and Dinah’s favorite person in the world), has come back! What’s more he’s sailed back in the True Love — a boat that holds only painful memories for Tracy, and anchored it right off shore, by his house (Dexter is also their neighbor).

    Now Dexter tells Tracy and her family something that really stuns them. A pair of reporters for a scandal magazine called SpyMike Connor and Liz Imbrie, will be attending Tracy’s wedding, masquerading as guests; in fact, they should be arriving any moment. Dexter invited them; it was the only way he could stop Spy from publishing an expose of Tracy’s father’s (Seth’s) affair with dancer Tina Mara. When Dexter asks where Seth is, Tracy tells him Mother kicked him out. And he’s not invited to the wedding either. Incensed by the indignity of having reporters in her house, Tracy rushes off to plot mischief, her mother races after her, worried, leaving Dinah with Dexter, whom she assumes has really come to steal Tracy away from George. But Dexter insists he hasn’t, and she rushes off distraught. So he rushes after her, hoping to make amends (“Little One”).

    Mike Connor and Liz Imbrie arrive (“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”). Tracy and Dinah greet them with grotesque affectation, then sing a peculiar version of “I Love Paris,” after which Dinah leaves and Tracy interrogates them witheringly (a famous Barry scene). Afterwards, in the pavilion for cocktails, Tracy, fearing the reporters may guess the true reason her father isn’t there, introduces Uncle Willie as if he were her father. Then, when her actual father arrives, Tracy introduces him as Uncle Willie. Later, with George and Dexter joining the mayhem, Uncle Willie (as Seth) sings “She’s Got That Thing” in response to Mike’s totally innocent question about the secret of Tina Mara’s allure. After which they all go to lunch.

    Later, Tracy’s world unravels even more. It happens by the pool. Dexter is the culprit, mercilessly stripping away her illusions of perfection. By act’s end she is alone and confused- about George (suddenly he seems so pompous), about Mike (he suddenly seems so sweet), about her father (how can Mother even think of forgiving him?) Staring out at the True Love, she remembers her blissful honeymoon cruise with Dexter on that very yacht, conjures up that Dexter of old, and, along with him, sings “True Love.” When Mike enters to remind her about Uncle Willie’s party (guests are already arriving) the memory fades. Mike leaves. Tracy picks up a bottle of champagne – a drink she’s sworn off, since (according to Dexter) she tends to do wildly uncharacteristic things when she drinks it – and starts gulping it down.

    Act II

    When Act Two opens we’re at Uncle Willie’s house, it’s 4 a.m. and the last guest has gone home. Tracy won’t stand for it! Guzzling champagne as if there were no tomorrow, she insists – despite George’s protests – that the party must go on, which at this point means dancing with the staff (“Let’s Misbehave”). George storms out, mortified. Dinah, thrilled, races off to find Dexter. Tracy, quickly wearing out the staff, dances off with Mike, leaving Liz to handle lecherous Uncle Willie, whom she still believes is Seth (“I’m Getting Myself Ready for You”).

    At Dexter’s house, Dexter, packing to leave, sings “It Was Just One of Those Things.” Dinah rushes in, sees what he’s planning and calls him a coward. When he says there’s nothing he can do, so why stay on, three magic words change his mind: She’s drinking champagne.

    Back at Uncle Willie’s, the staff is in the kitchen when Tracy runs in, hears George and hides. (“Well, Did You Evah?”) Enter George. The staff covers. Exit George. Enter Liz, who hides with Tracy. Enter Uncle Willie. Again, the staff covers. Exit Willie. Tracy and Liz emerge. Thinking Uncle Willie is returning, Liz flees. But it’s George who comes back. Reluctantly, Tracy leaves with him. Neither of them notices Mike, clutching a champagne bottle, following George.

    Outside, George reminds Tracy they’ve a rather big day tomorrow, or has she forgotten? She looks puzzled. Mike arrives. “Well, I certainly haven’t forgotten.” George tells her he’s going to assume this behavior won’t happen again, and stalks off. Mike tells Tracy she can’t marry that guy; he’s not good enough for her. Outraged, she calls him a snob. In response, he sings “You’re Sensational,” then kisses her. “Golly,” she says. (In the distance, revelers sing “Let’s Misbehave.”) She asks if he’d like to go for a swim. He says he doesn’t have a suit. She says, “You won’t need one; Dexter and I always swam after parties.” And with that, she dashes off, Mike, champagne bottle in hand, racing after her.

    Dexter and Dinah arrive to see Mike chasing Tracy through the woods, Tracy’s father chasing his wife, and Uncle Willie chasing Liz. Along the way, Dexter and Uncle Willie have a heart-to-heart (“Say It with Gin”). Finally, Mike catches up to Tracy at the pool (“It’s All Right with Me”).

    Dexter, sitting on a patio near the pool, sees Liz wander by. Yes, he does know where Mike is. A sudden splashing is heard. Liz handles it well (“He’s a Right Guy”). Feeling for Liz, he explains about the Seth/Uncle Willie charade and the blackmail threat against the real Seth that underlies it all. Liz, incensed, says she’ll handle it and leaves. Then George shows up looking for Tracy. A moment later, Mike enters carrying Tracy, who’s feeling no pain and wearing only a robe. George is stunned. Mike says, “Seems the moment she hit the water, the champagne hit her.” Dexter stops George from punching Mike, gets Mike to take Tracy to her room, then reassures George in a way that only increases George’s worst suspicions.

    The next morning, Tracy has a vague memory of being in a pool last night with someone other than George, as George can’t swim. When Mike enters, she realizes who it was, decides she obviously made love to him and therefore all is over. But of course it isn’t, and by the end George is gone, Tracy’s mother and father have mended things, the blackmail threat is removed, Mike’s realized Liz means more to him than he’d ever imagined, and Tracy, that it’s Dexter she loves and has always loved. With a wedding set but no bridegroom in sight, Dexter volunteers. Is he sure? Samantha shows he is and a reprise of “True Love” ensures that this time it’s going to last. Dinah seems especially pleased. Like Puck, she’s had a hand in it all.

     – Arthur Kopit                            


    Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
    Book by Arthur Kopit
    Additional Lyrics by Susan Birkenhead
    Based on the play “The Philadelphia Story” by Philip Barry
    Also based on the Turner Entertainment Co. motion picture “High Society”

    Original Broadway Production Produced by:
    Lauren Mitchell and Robert Gailus, Hal Luftig and Richard Samson
    Dodger Endemol Theatricals in association with Bill Haber
    Originally Produced by American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco, CA.
    Carey Perloff, Artistic Director, Heather Kitchen, Managing Director

    Such credits to the authors, Philip Barry and Turner Entertainment Co. for all purposes shall be equal in type size to each other and shall be in type size equal to or greater than that of any other credits except for that of the star(s) above the title. Credits to the Broadway producers and the original producer shall be fifty percent (50%) of the size of the credits given to the authors, Philip Barry and Turner Entertainment Co.

    The title page of the program shall contain the following announcement in type size at least one-half the size of the authors’ credits:

    is presented by arrangement with
    Tams-Witmark, A Concord Theatricals Company

    Additionally, you agree to include the above language hyperlinked to https://tamswitmark.com/ on all websites on which you promote the play.

  • Orchestration

    1 Reed 1 – Flute, Clarinet, Alto Saxophone
    1 Reed 2 – Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone
    1 Reed 3 – Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
    1 Trumpet 1 in Bb (Doubling Flügelhorn)
    1 Trumpet 2 in Bb (Doubling Flügelhorn)
    1 Trombone
    1 Guitar (Doubling Banjo)
    1 Keyboard (Synthesizer)
    1 Violin (Doubling Viola)
    1 Bass
    1 Percussion I:
         Tubular Bells (Chimes)
         Bell Tree
         Siren Whistle
         Mark Tree
         Suspended Cymbal

    1 Percussion II:
         Trap Set
         Sizzle Cymbal
         China Cymbal
         Splash Cymbal
         Wood Block

    1 Accordion  – Onstage, for “I Love Paris” only (included in Libretto/Vocal Book)

    Optional Additional Materials

    1      Full Score (Partitur) in 2 volumes is available, at an additional charge, with the rental of the full orchestration.

  • Rehearsal Materials

    2       Piano/Conductor Scores
    20     Libretto/Vocal Books

    Optional Additional Materials

    1      Full Score (Partitur) in 2 volumes is available, at an additional charge, with the rental of the full orchestration.

  • Tracy Samantha Lord, a wealthy daughter about to be married
    Dinah Lord, Tracy’s little sister, 13 years old
    Mother Lord (Margaret), Tracy’s mother
    Seth Lord, Tracy’s father
    Dexter C.K. Haven, a neighbor of the Lords
    Liz Imbrie, a magazine photographer
    Mike (Macaulay) Connor, a journalist
    Uncle Willie, host of Tracy’s pre-wedding ball
    George Kittredge, Tracy’s husband-to-be

    Staff: SATB chorus of 4 maids and 4 butlers

  • HIGH SOCIETY played for 144 performances on Broadway at the St. James Theatre starring Melissa Errico, Daniel McDonald, Randy Graff, Stephen Bogardus and John McMartin. It was revived in London at the Old Vic Theatre in 2015.

    Awards (1998)

    The Theatre World Award (Anna Kendrick)

  • Act I

    1. Overture – Orchestra
    2. “High Society” / “Ridin’ High” – Staff & Tracy
    3. “Throwing A Ball Tonight” – Mother Lord, Tracy, Willie, Dinah & Staff
    4. “Little One” – Dexter & Dinah
    5. “The Train” – Staff
    6. “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” – Liz & Mike
    7. “I Love Paris” – Dinah, Tracy & Chester
    7a. “Tennis” – Staff
    8. “She’s Got That Thing” – Willie, Dexter, & Staff
    9. “Finale Act One” – Tracy, Dexter & Staff

    Act II

    12. Entr’acte – Orchestra
    13. “Well, Did You Evah?” – Mike, Liz, Dexter & Chester
    14. “Let’s Misbehave” – Tracy, Mike, Liz, Mother Lord, Seth, Willie & George
    15. The Dance Band – Orchestra
    15a. Let’s Misbehave Tag – Orchestra
    16. “Just One Of Those Things” – Dexter
    16a. Lantern Ballet (Scene Change) – Orchestra
    17. “You’re Sensational” – Mike
    17a. “Let’s Misbehave” Underscore – Staff, Dexter & Mother Lord
    17b. “Say It With Gin” – Willie
    17c. “Gin Transition & All Right Intro” – Mother Lord, Staff, Mike & Tracy
    18. “It’s All Right With Me” – Tracy
    18a. “Let’s Misbehave Crossover” – Staff
    19. “He’s A Right Guy” – Liz
    20. “Wedding Bells” – Staff
    21. “Finale Act Two” – Company
    22. Bows – Company
    23. Exit Music – Orchestra

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