We set out this week to see the exhibition of the effects of the actor/singer/director/writer and 20th century glamour-puss Noel Coward. It’s on display at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in Lincoln Centre. Until yesterday, we didn’t know this part of the NY Public Library existed. We arrived slightly early for the noon opening and found ourselves waiting in one of the most divine public spaces we have ever come across in the City. A giant Henry Moore sculpture set in a large pool of shimmering water is the centrepiece and is surrounded by lots of comfortable modern seats and trees. It’s very peaceful and made us feel like we were in Paris rather than NYC.
The exhibition was completely worth the wait. It takes you back in time to see all the photographs of Noel Coward with his movie star pals. He was one of the first “celebrities” and the photos made us yearn for a glamorous time made famous by the golden age of Hollywood. He wrote over 300 songs many of which play on rotation at the show. “Mad About the Boy” sung most famously by Dinah Washington is so bluesy and heartfelt, we had no idea that this bon-vivant wrote such songs. There are lots of photos and memorabilia of his many plays and movies and we adored reading telegrams from such luminaries as Sir Laurence Olivier whose line “Oh my lovely boy isn’t it great great great and lovely lovely lovely glamorous and earth-shaking” will amuse us for a long time.
First night play gifts were gorgeous, our favorite a petite red leather box with gold script. We assumed it was a cigarette box, on closer inspection we realized it was a darling little hip flask, the most beautiful we’ve ever seen. There are women’s costumes from his films, lots of his smoking jacket robes, his make-up table, sheet music, grand piano and silver cigarette cases. We loved a photo of his home which showed he had his own stage for parties complete with two pianos! The exhibition harks back to a time not only of great glamor but also true creative genius. It is inspiring and nostalgic and well worth a visit.Star Quality: The World of Noel Coward. Runs March 12 thru August 18th, 2012 The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts 40 Lincoln Centre Plaza. NY