Arts Listings

Arts: Hits and Rarities From the Cole Porter Songbook

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Tuesday December 19, 2006

“Both a little naughty and a little nice” is the apt description for husband and wife cabaret team Billy Philadelphia and Meg Mackay’s holiday season show, A Little Cole in Your Stocking, featuring hits and rarities from Cole Porter’s songbook (as well as a few “traditional and non-traditional holiday songs”), playing evenings at 8 p.m., Dec. 20-23 and 27-30, at the Aurora Theatre, where it debuted last year. 

This year’s show, however, will be the real debut of Billy Philadelphia at the Aurora with his wife. Last year, in “just one of those things,” Philadelphia was rushed into emergency heart surgery on opening night, replaced at the last minute at the keyboards by Larry Dunlap (himself comprising half another noted husband-and-wife jazz and cabaret act with Bobbe Norris). 

Though it was an anxiety-fraught situation, troupers Mackay and Dunlap put on such a show that the audience easily shed their own cares, whetting the appetite of anyone who sampled the tunes that evening, or those which followed, for Billy Philadelphia’s return to the stage, and the reprise of A Little Cole in Your Stocking, accompanying his talented partner. 

Meg Mackay demonstrated the range of Porter’s oeuvre, from melodic to finger-popping, dramatic to very intimate, with both spontaneity and poise—real style. Her patter between songs was often witty, and just as likely to be in a warm, conversational address, giving a personal touch to an evening of sophisticated salon and saloon songs. She’s familiar to Bay Area audiences from her appearances in three seasons of A Karen Carpenter Christmas (written and directed by Aurora artistic director Tom Ross), in Beach Blanket Babylon in North Beach, and TheatreWorks’ production of Gypsy! on the Peninsula, as well as on the cabaret stage and her two CDs, both produced by her husband. 

Energetic Billy Philadelphia has, in a quarter century of performing in the Bay Area, done everything from accompanying Dame Edna (on piano) during the San Francisco run of her Royal Tour, to staging Hoagy—a musical tribute to Hoagy Carmichael, to his role as KNBR radio’s The Man About Town. 

In addition to the Cole Porter classics like “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and “Night and Day,” Mackay and Philadelphia dust off some seldom-played Porter tunes, as well as a few holiday songs, both familiar and offbeat, to celebrate the season. Porter, whose output covered so much of modern life, never wrote a Christmas number! 

A Little Cole in Your Stocking is a perfect escape from the commercial rush of the holidays, restoring a bit of real conviviality, as this talented couple air the witty, touching works of America’s premiere composer of sophisticated showtunes and intimate numbers for cabaret. 




8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday through Dec. 30 at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addision St. $25. 843-4822. 


Photograph by David Allen 

Meg Mackay and Billy Philadelphia in A Little Cole in Your Stocking.