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For the week of Feb. 23 through Feb. 29, 2000

Sizzling-hot crowd shows up for "The Philadelphia Story"

Party spirits soared after the final curtain amid schmoozing with the cast and endless champagne toasts

By Dana DuGan

Gee, what a swell party..."Did you hear? It’s in the stars. Next July we collide with Mars. Well did you ever? What a swell party this is."

So sang Frank and Bing in "High Society," a 1956 film remake of "The Philadelphia Story." While the Company of Fools’ production that opened on Friday night last did not have Ol’ Blue Eyes or Der Bingster, it was indeed a swell party, after all.

The play, directed by John Glenn, opened to a sold-out, dressed-up, sizzling-hot crowd. Champagne flowed as the revelers took their seats.

Colter Hodge and Mary KennedyJilted-husband-to-be Colter Hodge holds the hand of Mary Kennedy, a “wedding guest.” (Express Photo by David N. Seelig)

Actors Denise Simone, Rusty Wilson, Courtney Lloyd, Scarlett Caldwell, Keith Roark, Joel Vilinsky, Colter Hodge, Mike Craig, Chad Smith, Marilyn Tiege, Danielle Kennedy, Gene Delago and Dan and Sheila Summers were all well cast and presented a thoroughly enjoyable evening in the theater, not withstanding the rear curtain’s almost knocking down some flats as the second act opened.

Marilyn Teitge and Mike Craig
Two cast members, Marilyn Teitge and Mike Craig, enjoy the party. (Express Photo by David N. Seelig)



The set was smashing (no pun intended), as were the costumes, mostly overseen by Company of Fools’ patroness and special consultant Demi Moore and by Suzy Hart of Deja Vu.

Phillip Barry’s "The Philadelphia Story" was written expressly for Katherine Hepburn, in need of a career boost after Hollywood snubbed the androgynous and strong-willed actress. After achieving a hit on Broadway, the play was transferred to film with Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart as the excellent leads. This current production harkens back to the original play, however, and so offered some unfamiliar characters, and unexpected scenes.

Once the theatrical aspect of the evening was completed, the audience, cast and crew marched over to the late lamented nightclub, The Mint, where a "wedding reception" was held to honor the couple who were married by the end of the play. Appropriately, they were played by real-life couple and founders of The Company of Fools, actors Simone and Wilson.

The party was organized by Danielle Kennedy, Anita McCann (wearing fab rhinestone-encrusted round glasses), Sheri Slater, (with dynamite heirloom brooch), Vicki Bates, Barbara Dembergh, Kate Rosekrants, Kate Wright, Camille Cortese and Demi Moore.

Chinese lanterns hung over the dance floor—via the Martha Stewart catalog—and vintage period paintings adorned the walls, including an incredible portrait of Wallis and David, the Windsors. The tables were adorned with tiered flower arrangements of roses, and tulips in wedding pastels.

Hors d’oeuvres and petits fours, such as salmon wrapped around asparagus, were passed, as was an endless supply of wine and champagne. The festively attired guests danced to a band made up of Josh Kelly, Hal Sweazy and John Northrup playing swing classics, while Debra Steur accompanied vocally. The whole happening was very much in the spirit of a real wedding.

Milling and schmoozing, the party goers lasted well into the wee hours with the cast, who were often confusingly still in character.

"It was an adventure," said "happy groom" Rusty Wilson. "We had a ball, had a lot of fun and I got the girl."

Mike Craig, "Uncle Willie," had pinned to his suit jacket a period "Jack Kelly" mayoral button from 1938—Jack Kelly being Grace’s father who ran for Philadelphia mayor. ("Demi gave it to me—also she gave me dirty books from that era to get me in the mood!")

Uncle Willie, for those who don’t know, is a notorious lech. Danielle Kennedy was overheard to say to Chad Smith ("Sandy"), "You have so much energy on stage, you’re quite gifted." Chad has recently moved back here from Eugene, Ore., and is hoping to do a lot more work in theater. Sweet boy, and, indeed, very good on the boards.

The star of the evening, of course, was "bride" Denise Simone, fairly glowing, as was appropriate. "I marry well. My beau of 16 years...." she gushed as she clutched her bouquet, well after it had been tossed into the audience and landed in Rumer Willis’ outstretched hands.

Courtney Lloyd, "Liz Imbrey," still quite in character, claimed, "It was a shock about the groom switch, but it came out right at the end."

Joel Vilinsky ("Mike Connor"), acting as the best man he becomes at the end of the show, made a toast from the stage to the happy couple, who, not immediately found, ran out to the dance floor claiming they were smooching in the back room.

Joel, who is actually an old and dear friend of the Simone/Wilson duo, graciously proclaimed as the crowd raised their glasses, "May you have long life, happiness, and may the curtains never close on your second act." Major kissing ensued and they had their first dance to "It Had To Be You." Sweet.

Among the local luminaries who attended were Page Klune, looking stunning in an orange silk sheath, who said about the happy couple, "I knew that was the last bouquet she would ever throw."

Graphic Artist Kim Woodland was happily nodding and chewing. Also, Tim and Mary Mott, Barbara and Peter Dembergh (who raved "fabulous party—pleasantly surprised"), Vicki Bates, Ken Ferris, Jeramie Dreyfuss, David Hurd, Esta Hornstein (not catering), Evonne Karie (not catering), David Fox (not catering), and Judith McQueen, also not catering (Alain Gilot was).

Seen as well, Jana Skinner, Laura Weithorn, Lynn and Coco Knudsen, Bonni and Peter Curran, Larry and Christy Flynn.

Roger Quarles, who said "the play was absolutely incredible," and Kate Duininck, stunning in a long, black velvet gown from Deja Vu, avowed "Kate Hepburn has nothing on Denise." Lynn and Mark Biglow said, "We’re having a lovely time in Hailey. Lovely party."

"I love this couple (referring to Denise and Rusty). They’re really a couple," said Rosemary Gilman.

A nice large fella named Scott Adams from Athens, Ga., seemingly just wandered into this affair with a whole gaggle of friends, and seemed happy and surprised to be in such company. Rusty Wilson’s parents flew in from Virginia, and his father even rented a tux for the occasion.

Also seen: Mitra and Frederich Boloix, Patricia Conwell, Sherry Daech, in cool little black vintage headband, Nick and Linda Maricich cutting the rug, Dick and Sue Hare, Will and Julie Caldwell, the very proud parents of Scarlett, who played the younger sister Dinah. Julie had a wee bubble blower and was gaily blowing bubbles all over the throng, which she claimed was what one did at weddings. Later after the band had finished their dulcet sounds, D. J. Jeremy took over and the dance floor was soon packed. Danielle Kennedy and her talented daughters, Kathleen, Mary and Beth, the latter of whom was wearing a smashing 1920s-style dress that had been her grandmother’s, took to the stage and did the "sistah" line dance thang with Rumer Willis, Scarlett Caldwell and Courtney Lloyd all night long. They were killing up there and quite literally became the entertainment for the remainder of the evening.

Ah, what a swell party it was.


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