Oscar E Moore

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KISS ME, KATE! – Timeless revisal where “so in love” says it all

March 23rd, 2019 by Oscar E Moore


Finally!  A necessary and extremely well put together magical musical.  With wit and charm and sex and style, a dose or two of the double entendre, some slapstick and a couple of gangsters.  All set during a musical version of Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.

Great choreography by Warren Carlyle and beautifully directed by Scott Ellis.  The bickering battle between its two leading players (ex-husband and wife) takes place backstage, on stage and off.

The original book by Sam and Bella Spewack has had some additional material by Amanda Green to make it more up to date and politically correct.  No spanking allowed!

After a steady diet of insipid, lean, teen angst-ridden productions posing as musicals with mostly unmemorable music and lyrics arrives the cream of the crop from the mind and supreme talent of Cole Porter.  He’s clever with words.  He’s romantic to a fault.  He’s arrived just in time to delight the tired-of-the-mediocre masses.

It’s Lent.  Why not give up all those wannabe and pretending to be musicals and scurry over to the Roundabout Theatre’s superb feast of a show at Studio 54.  It’s just been extended through June 30th.

No matter that it was first produced in 1948.  KISS ME, KATE!  is a classic.  It is timeless.  And it has been given a wonderfully attractive production (set design:  David Rockwell; costume design:  Jeff Mahshie; lighting design:  Donald Holder) with a first rate cast that has spruced up KISS ME, KATE and brought it into the 21st century where this damsel in distress can sure take care of herself with a smile and/or a sneer whenever called for with a quick one two kick for good measure.

The damsel in question is Lilli Vanessi (a radiant Kelli O’Hara – glorious voice intact) once married to lothario Fred Graham (Will Chase) in his best John Barrymore mode. They toured together.  They sang together.  They loved one another.  She is now engaged to an Army General.  Fred has wooed her back to the theatre with a co-starring role in a musical version of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW that he has “created, produced and directed.”  He is Petruchio to her Katherine.  They are simply made for one another with voices that soar in Porter’s score.

Corbin Bleu is Bill Calhoun and Lucentio.  A tap dancing gambler in love with Lois Lane who portrays Bianca.  Lois is a flirt with some military connections.  Bill as Lucentio has a great dance number with Bianca and Gremio (Will Burton) and Hortensio (Rick Faugno) “Tom, Dick, or Harry” with an emphasis on the Dick.  Suggestive and hilarious.

Bill’s written a false I.O.U. which brings the two gangsters (John Pankow & Lance Coadie Williams) to the star dressing room of Fred.  Lilli threatens to leave the show after a floral misunderstanding and the two gangsters stick around to make sure she doesn’t, to protect their investment of sorts.  It’s all crazy and fun and very easy to enjoy.

The singing is spectacular.  Kelli O’Hara even has a brief duet with a bird.  The acrobatic dancing with splits and slides and tap upstages the singing at times and the Act II “Too Darn Hot” is sensational.

So what are you waiting for?  Get thee hence to Studio 54 and luxuriate in the music of Cole Porter who is on a par with Shakespeare as a master of words.  “So in Love” says it all.  Very highly recommended.

Note:  Understudy Christine Cornish Smith went on for Stephanie Styles as Bianca and did everyone proud.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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