Young singer joins classmates from Penn State for ‘Hot ‘n’ Cole’

There’s simply something wonderful about the music of Cole Porter, the songwriter whose urbane love songs continue to resonate with singers and audiences more than 50 years after his death.

“The suavity of the musical writing and the witty sophistication of the lyrics has an unusual way of speaking directly to your heart,” said Joseph Holt, artistic director of Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota, which will close its season on Mother’s Day with “Hot ’n’ Cole: A Cole Porter Celebration!”

The musical revue will feature Maria Wirries, the young singer whom Sarasota audiences have embraced since she was a 10-year-old onstage at The Players Theatre’s Talent Explosion in 2008. Now 19 and a junior in the musical theater program at Penn State, she will bring seven of her classmates to the Sarasota Opera House for the show.

With such songs as “Night and Day,” “At Long Last Love,” “In the Still of the Night” and “It’s Too Darn Hot,” the revue will showcase Wirries, Julia Hemp, Laura Guley, Joseph Allen, Johnathan Philip Teeling and Daniel Teixiera with pianists Chris Rayis and Loclan Mackenzie-Spencer. John Simpkins, director of the musical theater program at Penn State, is directing the show, which will also be performed twice in Pennsylvania before the students and instructors come to Sarasota.

“It’s really nice to get a chance to work with your classmates outside the normal program,” said Wirries, who has performed on Sarasota stages with the Sarasota Orchestra, Choral Artists of Sarasota (formerly Gloria Musicae), and at past Artist Series Concerts. “I really love Cole Porter music and music from that era. I think it’s so fun and so relatable. The people in Sarasota are absolutely going to know all the songs.”

The show takes the revue form with duets and ensembles without a storyline per se, said Holt. Using two pianists with the six singers creates unique arrangements that Holt called “striking and original. They meld from one to another so that a story is told without telling a story.”

Holt, along with ACS managing director John Fischer, is happy to feature Wirries in the revue.

“She connects readily with not only the audience but with the musical material, said Holt. “I can only imagine how she’s developed now that she’s been up at Penn State for the last three years.”

“Maria is on the cusp of a major musical career and we’re thrilled to cheer her along her way,” said Fischer.

Wirries rocketed through school in Sarasota, starting at State College of Florida when she was just a high school sophomore and then heading off to Penn State at 16.

She loves Penn State, with its rural setting, small classes and “no distractions.”

But she also relishes her trips home to Sarasota.

“I feel like I have a massive family that’s watched me grow up,” she said. “I have just the most incredibly supportive people there. Even if I’ve never met them, they say things to me like, ‘Oh my goodness, I remember when you were 8.’”