Harry Connick Jr. is headed back to Broadway with a three-week limited engagement celebration of legendary songwriter Cole Porter. The actor and musician came up with the concept for the show and is also directing.
“I love Broadway and if I had two careers one of them would be only Broadway just because I love it that much,” said Connick Jr. to Variety at a press event at Sardi’s in Manhattan’s theater district. “I love the family of it, I love the immense creativity that exists here, not only with the people onstage but with the people that put the the show on, from the producers to the crews.”
Connick Jr. plucked liberally from Porter’s oeuvre, one that includes such musical classics as “Kiss Me Kate and “Anything Goes,” to assemble his song list.
“He really understood the technique of arranging and orchestrating and he was so educated and used his education in such a witty way with his lyric writing and his songwriting — just an unusual hybrid of talents that he possessed,” said Connick Jr.
“True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter,” a theatrical adaptation of Porter’s songbook, will include some tunes from Connick Jr.’s corresponding cover album of the same name, as well as some numbers that were previously unrecorded by the musician. Porter was most popular in the 1930s and ’40s, but Connick Jr. believes the songs are still relevant and the audience “may feel like they were written specifically for them and where they are in their lives now.”
The show will also touch on Porter’s personal story. The songwriter had a tortured relationship with his sexuality and endured a series of health struggles.
“I didn’t want it to turn into a history lesson,” Connick Jr. said. “I still wanted to feel like they were on this artistic ride with me so I didn’t want to belabor it too much with a bunch of stats and facts, but there’s enough in there to educate people who may not know about [Porter] to let them know who he was.”
The show will feature a 24-piece big band and changing sets. Connick Jr. said that he is confident in his vision for the show, hoping that the audience has a “good time.”
Connick Jr., who previously appeared in revivals of “The Pajama Game,” and “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” hopes to eventually come back to Broadway with his own original show.
“I’ve been lucky so far in doing things that felt right,” he said. “There’s so many great roles out there, but I think I would rather do an original thing than a revival.”
So what does he think Porter would make of his tribute?
“If he came to the show if he were alive, I would be humbled, but if he said ‘yeah, it’s okay’ I’d take that and be real cool with it,” he said.
“True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter” will open on Dec. 12 and will run at the Nederlander Theatre for three weeks.