Three stars

To quote Cole Porter, it was “strange dear, but true dear” to find that his 125th anniversary falls on the same year as the RSNO’s – so a concert celebrating his work on Saturday night was doubly timely.

What seemed a little odd, however, was the fact that only one singer was joining the orchestra to celebrate the songbook of the prolific composer whose hits were introduced by a diverse range of stars, both on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Saturday’s programme focused on the Broadway numbers – and they were all sung by Kim Criswell, the renowned American singer who is no stranger to the Concert Hall stage thanks to her appearances with The John Wilson Orchestra. Indeed, Kim Criswell Celebrates Cole Porter would have been a more appropriate title since it was very much a one-woman show, with the orchestra in accompanying mode.

When she does the John Wilson gig, Criswell usually sings the songs associated with Judy Garland and Ethel Merman, and – since the blowsy, belter-outer of songs Merman was one of Porter’s favourite leading ladies to write shows for – her involvement made perfect sense, though if you have a Merman aversion, it wasn’t good news.

She did a terrific job doubling as very entertaining presenter who shared fascinating stories about and insights into the background to the shows and songs.

The stand-out numbers were the sumptuous ballads, on which Criswell wasn’t in Merman mode and the band’s ravishing sound came to the fore.

But even this Porter devotee had had enough of such epic numbers as Let’s Do It, Where Would You Get Your Fur Coat? and It’s De-Lovely by the time we had reached the final verses.