Interview with Deborah Robin on LOVE, LINDA: THE LIFE OF MRS. COLE PORTER

P3 Theatre presents LOVE, LINDA: THE LIFE OF MRS. COLE PORTER, a powerful one-woman musical about the dazzling Southern socialite Linda Lee Thomas and her improbable marriage to songwriter Cole Porter who created such classics as “So in Love,” “Night and Day,” “In the Still of the Night,” and “Love for Sale.”

Though Porter was gay, their companionship and love lasted through 35 years of marriage and a spectacular, glamour-filled life. With innovative arrangements, the timeless music and lyrics of Cole Porter weave through the compelling narrative of Love, Linda examining the darker sides of their life, while also celebrating the deep love that blossomed through their unconventional relationship.  “It’s an amazing love story,” said P3 Theatre Company Executive Artistic Director Jon Peterson. “Many people are surprised to learn that Cole Porter had a wife. The show has all the behind-the-scenes secrets as well as the luscious music of Porter.”

LOVE, LINDA: THE LIFE OF MRS. COLE PORTER had its Off-Broadway premiere in 2013 featuring music and lyrics by Cole Porter, with Book by Stevie Holland and Gary Wiliam Friedman. The show will have its Southwestern Regional Premiere October 16-24 at the 2nd Story Theatre in Hermosa Beach before moving October 30-31 to the Renaissance Performing Arts Center in Long Beach. Through song and story, Deborah Robin promises a tour-de-force performance as Mrs. Cole Porter. And as a fan of Cole Porter’s music but not knowing anything about his wife or their life together, I wanted to find out a bit more about the production, especially what led Deborah Robin to take on the role.

(Shari): Hi Deborah. Thank you for taking to time to speak with me about LOVE, LINDA: THE LIFE OF MRS. COLE PORTER.

 (Deborah): Hi Shari, it’s my pleasure to chat with you! I am so delighted that you have an interest in our show

(Shari): First of all, congratulations on your acclaimed pre-pandemic turn as Doris Day in P3 Theatre’s Day After Day: The Life and Music of Doris Day. What else would you like readers to know about your theatre background?

(Deborah): Oh thank you so much, Shari; Day After Day was a wonderful experience! I adore everything about Doris, and always will. It was a privilege to portray her, and to work with the P3 Theater Company. As for my theatre background, I have been involved in theatre for most of my life (including post-graduate studies at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art), with the exception of the years I stepped away to be home with my babies. The first time I stepped back into a theatre to audition again, it felt like coming home, like Cinderella’s magical slipper fitting her foot at last. I knew that I belonged here. Many of you can relate, I am sure! Speaking of magic, I have found that I gravitate to shows with elements of magic within them. Besides Doris, one of my favorite past roles to play was Mary Poppins. If enchantment is involved, I’m your girl!

(Shari): I take it you are a big fan of Cole Porter’s music. Do you have a favorite number or two you will be performing in the show?

(Deborah): Ah, that is a tough question! All of Cole’s music is timeless, memorable, marvelous! At this point, I think one of my favorites in this show might be “In the Still of the Night.” Some singers have interpreted this song dramatically, even fun and jazzy, but when it is done tenderly, with feeling, wow, does it touch the heart. Doris Day did an incredible recording of this song that I love, of course!

(Shari):  Since many aspects of Porter's life simply could not be discussed in great detail during the 1940s and 1950s, such as his 35-year marriage to Southern socialite Linda Lee Thomas, what was it about her life and unconventional marriage that pulled you into wanting to portray her onstage?

(Deborah): Yes, absolutely, the reality of their marriage was not up for discussion at that time! There was a rather fictionalized account of their marriage in the movie Night and Day starring Cary Grant as Cole Porter. Apparently, after seeing the film, Cole remarked, with humor, “None of it’s true.”  But I knew almost nothing about Linda’s life before Jon Peterson of the P3 Theatre Company reached out to me during quarantine, asking if I’d heard of Love, Linda and if I might be interested in taking a look at it for the future? Of course, I said “yes” immediately because I relish Porter’s music, especially from Anything Goes and Kiss Me, Kate.

When I began researching Linda, I was fascinated. She was certainly a very sophisticated, sparkling socialite, but very private. I believe she truly loved him since they were together for nearly half of her life. Did you know she kept every Cole Porter review, ticket stub, and program and that her scrapbooks reside at Yale now?

(Shari): No, I had no idea!

(Deborah): And she saved his life as well, insisting that doctors not amputate his legs when he suffered an accident since she knew it would crush his spirit. I believe Cole loved her, too! After she passed away, he wept inconsolably at her funeral, and said he’d had two great women in his life: his mother and Linda, who kept him going. He commissioned a rose for her as well, the Linda Porter rose.

(Shari): What else do you hope audiences will learn about her?

(Deborah): I hope audiences will come away with an understanding of and connection to this spirited lady. Linda was much more than Cole Porter’s wife, or benefactor, or muse. She was a bright and vivacious woman with a passion for culture, music, and Cole!

(Shari): No doubt their glamour-filled lifestyle was essential for both of them. But how do you think they were able to stay married for 35 years?

(Deborah):  Yes, they were the epitome of glamour! The palatial houses, lavish decor, the world traveling. Linda’s jewelry collection is just to-die-for! Many of her pieces were commissioned by Cartier, and are so gorgeous! One of her most iconic pieces was an aquamarine and ruby Belt Buckle Necklace made by Paul Flato in 1935, which is considered an American work of art.

I think there are many reasons Cole and Linda were able to stay married, which Linda discusses in the show. They admired and respected one another, in addition to love. She saw him for the man that he was, and gave him space and freedom in his intimate life. In a practical sense, for Cole, his marriage to Linda gave him access to a sophisticated social life; for Linda, Cole granted her access to the world of the arts. Of course, they did have problems in their marriage, which Love, Linda explores as well

(Shari): What do you think will surprise audiences about their behind-the-scenes life, either in Paris or New York?

(Deborah): I hope audiences will be pleasantly surprised, even touched, at the genuine love and affection that existed between these two! Marriage can be challenging enough under the best circumstances; Cole and Linda (with eyes wide open) managed to have a beautiful life together, as unconventional and puzzling as it may seem.

(Shari): For this production, are you able to rehearse in person with director Tony Santamauro and/or musical director Bill Wolfe or just online for now?  And have you ever worked with either of them before?

(Deborah): Yes, I have been able to work with both of these fabulous people in person, and we are following all safety protocols. Tony was my director for Day After Day, and I jumped at the opportunity to work with him again. He just radiates a zeal for theatre, he lives and breathes it, and is a joy to work with. This is my first time working with Bill, and he is delightful (and so talented)!

(Shari): What message do you hope audiences take away with them after seeing the show?

(Deborah): Besides all of the classic Cole Porter tunes that will be playing on repeat in their heads for days? Most of us know Cole Porter as a clever and witty composer who was unable to live openly as a gay man. He was more than clever and closeted; he was staggeringly brilliant, and much deeper and more complex than people realize. He was not able to be himself, openly, in the world, but he had someone in his corner who cared. Some of his more thoughtful songs really portray this side of him, touching emotions in us that cannot be conveyed except through music. I hope audiences will come away with a bit more insight into the captivating man that he was, and of the woman who adored him

(Shari): Is there anything else you would like to add?

(Deborah): Yes! The number one reason to come to this show is the music! It is delightful and delicious, and the particular arrangements in Love, Linda are de-lovely! There are also some lesser-known treasures you may never have heard before. Cole Porter’s music is universally loved for a reason, and I hope you will love it, too. Thank you so much, Shari, for your interest in our show, and for this interview! I really appreciate it.

P3 Theatre Company presents the Southwestern Regional Debut of LOVE, LINDA: THE LIFE OF MRS. COLE PORTER, a musical one-woman show starring Deborah Rubin about the improbable love of the gay songwriter and his socialite wife. With Music and lyrics by Cole Porter, Book by Stevie Holland and Gary Wiliam Friedman, the production is Directed by Tony Santamauro with Musical Direction by Bill Wolfe.

Performances take place:
October 16-24 at the 2nd Story Theatre in Hermosa Beach, with Adult General Admission: $32.00 or Senior/Student/Military General Admission $28.00, available at https://www.onthestage.tickets/show/p3-theatre-company/love-linda-the-life-of-mrs-cole-porter-65321

October 30-31 at the Renaissance Performing Arts Center in Long Beach with General Admission Adult: $35.00 or Senior/Student/Military: $32.00 available at https://www.onthestage.tickets/show/p3-theatre-company/love-linda-the-life-of-mrs-cole-porter-89246 

Run time is 75 minutes with no intermission, and both venues have wheelchair accessible parking and seating available. All ticket sales are final. Please note: For all in-person performances, you will be required to wear a mask indoors in compliance with the current LA County mandate. In addition to wearing a mask, you will need to present proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test (within 72 hours) along with a photo ID.

Headshot photo of Deborah Robin by Susan Spann

Stock Photos of Cole Porter and his wife Linda Lee Thomas

Photo of Deborah Robin as Doris Day in "Day After Day: The Life and Music of Doris Day"
by Caught in the Moment Photography


Valentine's Weekend and Beyond: The Other Way to Celebrate Love With the Lights Out

Like a box of chocolates, here's a rich and varied collection of L.A. theatrical, comedy, magic, and variety shows, readings, and classic films to enjoy for your Valentine's, Galentine's, or Palentine's Weekend--and beyond--currently registered on Better Lemons' Calendar.


Loves Me/Loves Me Not

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She Loves Me

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Gifted

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The $5 Shakespeare Company

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That's the End of Our Time

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Mistakes Were Made

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Emma

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Shoulda Been You

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The Little Match Girl

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Valentine’s Weekend of Love at The Montalbán

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Casablanca - Valentine’s Weekend of Love at The Montalbán

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The Notebook - Valentine’s Weekend of Love at The Montalbán

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Breakfast at Tiffany's - Valentine’s Weekend of Love at The Montalbán

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Barefoot in the Park

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Never Been Kissed

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Mack & Poppy: 'Til Death Do Us Part

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Hot Tragic Dead Thing

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Ryan O'Connor Dishes on His VOTE'ng, PRAY-ing, & LOVE'ng

Actor and popular Los Angeles cabaret staple Ryan O'Connor will be bringing a new and improved edition of his VOTE, PRAY, LOVE to the Celebration Theatre for four performances only, beginning April 8, 2018. Directed by Tony Award-winner Marissa Jaret Winokur, VOTE, PRAY, LOVE will cover a little politics, a little personal challenges and a little Elizabeth Taylor. Ryan agreed to a friendly inquisition from me for some behind-the-scenes tidbits and some chuckles.

Thank you, Ryan for doing this interview.

I've seen you displaying your vocal and comic chops on stage at Rockwell in THE UNAUTHORIZED MUSICAL PARODY OF MEAN GURLZ and UMPO HOME ALONE. Is Rockwell where you first connected with your director Marissa? You and she also co-hosted A Little New Music at the Catalina last year.

We've actually been friends for over 15 years. We met while she was doing HAIRSPRAY on Broadway. I was a young and hungry, struggling musical theatre actor. We both moved to L.A. around the same time and I had done a few things at Rockwell over the years. Then she came in for UMPO HOCUS POCUS, and I joined the party on MEAN GURLZ. Now we both consider it a home away from home, same way I feel about Celebration. In the show, when I talk about the friend whose guest room I lived in, it was hers! So, she was the natural director for the show. She knew it very well!

Is your title VOTE, PRAY, LOVE a play on Julia Roberts' 2010 flick Eat, Pray, Love? Or, maybe, the 2013 Bravo series Eat, Drink, Love?

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, is huge inspiration for me. When I applied for the job working on the Hillary campaign, I told the woman who hired me that this was my "Eat, Pray, Love" moment and it just sort of stuck. But I wanted a campaign element in the title, so I chose the word "VOTE." Besides, I already did a show all about food years ago. This is a very different story. I don't know that Bravo show! I'll have to look it up!

You're a self- admitted Elizabeth Taylor fan. Wasn't there any titles of her films you could have tweaked to use for this show instead? Ryan on a Hot Tin Roof? Who's Afraid of Virginia O'Connor? Ryan O'Patra?

Ha! Ha! Ryan O'Patra is hilarious!! My favorite Elizabeth movie is actually called Boom! It was a big flop with her and Richard Burton, an adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play, but it's fabulously campy and in a scene opposite a nearly dead Noel Coward, she wears this incredible gaudy headdress and white and gold caftan, that (spoiler alert!) may make an appearance in VOTE, PRAY, LOVE. I even have a rare Polish movie poster for it which is a drawing of a caftan made out of Elizabeth and Richard's faces. It's stunning. Some day I'd love to musicalize the film and actually play Elizabeth, but I don't know if anyone is banging down my door to produce that. Ha! Ha!

Did you ever have the opportunity to meet Mz. Taylor?

I never met Elizabeth. It's a great regret of mine. I remember being told she was wheeled in to The Abbey once when I was nearby, but she was already covered in throngs of gay men trying to get to her, and I just thought it best to leave her an icon I never met. I didn't actually realize the impact she had on my subconscious until after her death and then, even more evidently, during my divorce.

Will fans of yours experience the same VOTE, PRAY, LOVE at the Celebration that you put on last December at the Rockwell? Or will they be able to detect subtle (or major) changes?

I actually really hope that everyone comes back because I've made a ton of changes and it's so much better! Ha! Ha! It was really well-received, but it was definitely a cabaret show with guests. This time, I've taken the dramatic narrative a little deeper, flushed out the story into a concise takeaway and gotten some incredible actors to actually step in and play multiple roles - based on real people. I have Katherine Tokarz, Lindsay Heather Pearce, and Amber Liekhus playing actual women I met working for the Hillary Clinton campaign in Michigan. Plus some surprise stuff that everyone is really gonna like. I also have the incredible actor Alex Nee playing a character we call "Trouble." He's sort of the sexy, charming villain of the piece, playing multiple facets of, well… trouble. I've cut some songs and added some new stuff plus some actual scenes and less monologues and, truthfully, it's much more like an actual musical than a solo cabaret show. It's pretty exciting. I hope everyone comes back!

How long did you work as field organizer for Hillary's 2016 presidential campaign?

I worked as a Field Organizer for four months. From July through the November Election in 2016. That's where the bulk of the drama of the show comes in. It's about the strength I got from these incredible women I met there. As well as, the actual day-to-day of working for the campaign, and the highs of being certain we would elect the first female President of the United States, as well as, the incredible lows, like the Comey letter and, of course, Election Night.

Must have been difficult editing down the stories you accumulated of that time. How did you whittle it all down to fit into VOTE, PRAY, LOVE? You picked the Top Ten funniest incidents? What other criteria came into play in your Hillary material selection?

Yeah, basically. The humor comes from the absurdity of the situation mixed with the incredibly high stakes. I'm also somebody who will find the humor in absolutely anything. So, even a dramatic story like this, you can always trust that I am going to focus on the humor wherever I can. My hope is that by using humor I can help people sort of process and digest this time that most of us would rather not relive.

Can you share a Hillary incident that almost made it into your show, but didn't?

Great question!! Yes!! One of my favorites that I couldn't get in the show! One day, I was out knocking doors to remind people to vote and check people's voter registrations and make sure they knew their polling locations… daily business as usual for us. And this day, I was knocking doors in a retirement village, and this old man answered the door in a shirt and no pants. No underwear, nothing. He must have been 85, and he had a walker, but that didn't cover everything up. He then proceeded to invite me in, tell me about every Democrat he ever voted for, what he thought about gerrymandering in Michigan, and his position on every ballot measure - with no pants. And he never referenced it. He was completely lucid and so nice, but no pants. I didn't know what to do, so I just acted like it was normal. I resisted the urge to ask him to volunteer. Seemed a little risky.

I congratulate you on being in such a healthy place that you can mine laughs out of your previous health challenges for inclusion and exposition in VOTE, PRAY, LOVE. Soooo, would you proudly share with us your latest goals you've attained?

Ha! Ha! Wow! I never thought I'd get that question in an interview, but yes! I have been sober for two years and four months now. I've maintained my weight loss and even started running, if you can believe it! I also quit smoking six months ago, which was actually the hardest of all! So, now I just have a ridiculous Starbucks Cold Brew problem. It's bad.

Is your divorce going to make me laugh through your tears?

I hope it makes you laugh! And, if you need to cry, I hope it helps! I didn't talk about it until I had some distance. It was really hard. Everyone tells you it will be okay, and they're right. But when you're in it, (pause) it feels impossible and endless. I remember getting so much strength from Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, Nora Ephron, Carrie Fisher, Michael Ausiello, and other people who shared their super personal stories. Those people's books, movies, and shows gave me so much hope and if I can do that for anyone, it's all been worth it. Well, sort of. Ha! Ha!

Will you be covering your encounter with Oprah in VOTE, PRAY, LOVE, in which she chose you to be one of the ten finalists out of 19,000 applicants in her search for the next TV star?

I will. Sort of. It's kind of where I pick up the story. Like, here I was on top of the world, how did it all fall apart? I actually just made a big decision last night about something I want to put in the show and I'm really excited. I think it's gonna be cool. Oprah fans will be very pleased. Hopefully, Oprah will too!

If you had your druthers, and knowing all you do now about Hillary and Mz. Taylor, would you have ever wanted to have switch places with one or both of them? Or not?

Ohhh, that is a serious question!!! Hillary is currently wearing a lot of caftans, traveling the world, and seeing a lot of theatre. And no one had a more interesting life than Elizabeth. So, they're both pretty tempting. But, I actually have a pretty spectacular and interesting life. If I didn't, it would be so obnoxious to think anyone would want to hear about it for 90 minutes!

Can you give us a hint to some of the songs we might be hearing in VOTE, PRAY, LOVE?

I use almost entirely songs by female songwriters to tell the story. So, you're gonna get these stories told through the music and lyrics of women you know and trust, like Carly Simon, Stevie Nicks, Annie Lennox, Ani DiFranco, Whitney Houston, and a bunch more. I sneak a couple show tunes in there too, though, don't worry.

Thank you again, Ryan! I look forward to laughing and crying through your triumphs!

Thanks, Gil! I'm excited for you and your readers to see it!

For tickets to check out how much Ryan will be you laugh or make you cry at one of his four scheduled performances through April 16, 2018; log onto CelebrationTheatre.com