Let’s fall in love.
That’s the message behind “Gigolo: The New Cole Porter Revue” — the production embarking on its world premiere at The Winter Park Playhouse and running through Sunday, Aug. 19.
It was created by California playwright Paul Gilger and tells the story of a handsome playboy and his relationship with four beautiful women. At its heart, the production is a celebration of the music of Cole Porter and features 25 classic songs from the legendary composer and songwriter, including “It’s De-Lovely,” “You’re the Top,” “Let’s Do It” and more.
Local fans may recognize the musical from last year’s Florida Festival of New Musicals, where one act was read before an audience without any set or costumes.
Winter Park Playhouse Artistic Director Roy Alan said the response from the audience was tremendous for just that small glimpse of the show. That’s when The Winter Park Playhouse realized there was something special happening, he said.
“It’s the brilliant way that (Paul) juxtaposed the music to tell the story,” Alan said. “Every time we’d come back to a song at the right time, the audience would laugh. They followed the whole story, which was great.”
Following the festival the playhouse approached Gilger about putting on the show and having it open the 2018-2019 Mainstage Series. “Gigolo” now has been transformed into a complete musical with a soul and fleshed out characters, running for the very first time at The Winter Park Playhouse. It will carry the Playhouse’s name wherever it goes next — it’s even literally in the script.
Anyone who caught a glimpse of the show at the festival in August 2017 is in for a real treat with the finished work, Alan said.
“If they liked it in the festival, they will absolutely fall in love with it,” Alan said.
It’s a special opportunity for everyone involved, said Gilger, who first came into contact with the playhouse when it put on a production of another one of his works called “Showtune!” in 2016.
To see “Gigolo” hit the stage with such a talented cast and working alongside the Playhouse has been incredible, Gilger said.
“It brings me to tears,” he said. “Without The Winter Park Playhouse, this show would be a piece of paper in my closet. I started it six years ago very modestly, and its life up until now has just been a very modest cabaret presentation.
“The show had gone as far as it could under my tutelage in California, and just to be part of the festival took it to the next level,” he said. “This is a dead show without The Winter Park Playhouse.”
The main character in the story — the gigolo — is inspired by the real life of Porfirio Rubirosa — a Dominican diplomat, race car driver, polo player, socialite and international playboy. During his life from 1909 to 1965, he was linked romantically to countless New York heiresses, Hollywood actresses and European countesses. He was married five times, and among his spouses were two of the richest women in the world at the time.
“The one thing that sticks in my mind is, ‘This guy had something,’” Alan said. “I don’t know if it was magnetic, chemical or what, but for this guy to be able to capture that many women’s hearts. … Something about this guy was almost like magic.”
The themes of romance and love are deeply woven into “Gigolo,” and it’s something audiences need to hear, Gilger said.
“This is where we’ve got to take the audience, because we’ve lost a lot of love in this world,” Gilger said. “I’m so proud of ‘Gigilo’ and what (The Winter Park Playhouse is) doing. This show has to be out there.”