Michael Blakemore’s Broadway revival production of Cole Porter’s 1948 musical “Kiss Me Kate” is a dazzlingly brilliant show full of great songs and great performances.
This production, which opened in Nov 99 at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York, winning five Tony Awards, six Drama Desk Awards and four Outer Critics Awards, has arrived in London with three of the original Broadway cast, Marin Mazzie, Michael Berresse and Nancy Anderson. You can see why it has won so many awards because this is a quality show with showbiz panache that keeps you entertained for nearly 3 hours with songs such as “Another Op’nin’ Another Show”, “Too Darn Hot”, “We Open In Venice” and many more.
The story is set in 1948 at the Ford Theatre, Baltimore. The company are performing a musical version of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”. However, when two gangsters arrive backstage to extract a debt from the leading man, they do so whilst he is in a blazing row with the leading lady, who is also his former wife. The gangsters get embroiled in the show and end up as characters within it!
Brent Barrett, who plays Fred Graham/Petruchio, is a sensation. He has a strong debonair presence with a sly witty smile. His singing and timing is faultless. He perfectly compliments Marin Mazzie who plays Lilli Vanessi/Katharine, who has a strong comical ‘malevolent’ presence and a terrific voice. Her delivery of the song “I Hate Men” is amazing. These two dominate with their consistent hilarious skirmishers.
The musical is full of showstoppers that are a joy. Particularly splendid is the song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” sung by Teddy Kempner and Jack Chissick, who play the two gangsters. Their double act throughout the show is scream.
The whole company perform with lots of energy in the dazzling dance routines, with Michael Berrese particularly outstanding when he summersaults and climbs his way through railings up three floors to greet his lover.
The show has reveived great notices from the popular press..... BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, “Kiss Me, Kate is packed with super songs” CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, “It is a dazzling evening of inventive, infectious pleasure.” MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, “There may be greater musicals than Kiss Me Kate: there are few that provide such constant, time-suspending pleasure.” PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, “The audience floats out of the theatre on a wave of unalloyed joy.” NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, “A dazzling night.” SHERIDAN MORLEY for TELEXT says, “One of the greatest revivals I have ever seen. Gotta sing, gotta dance, gotta see it!” JOHN PETER for THE SUNDAY TIMES says, "Inventive, vigorous, warm-hearted and gloriously sophisticated." He goes on to say, "If this show doesn't lift your heart up in these dark days, nothing will. " PETER HEPPLE for THE STAGE says, "Something as close to unalloyed joy as you can find in the theatre."
With so many terrific songs and dance routines coupled with a strong story, witty lyrics and great performances this is an enchanted musical that should not be missed.
Links to full reviews from newspapers...
Next review by Jonathan Richards
Since September 11th, Broadway is not the only place which has been suffering theatrical casualties. In fact, in just over a month and a half, over seven premature show closures have occurred, most of these being musicals. For a production to survive, it now seems necessary to have glittering reviews, star name appeal or to be familiar material. Michael Blakemore’s acclaimed Broadway revival of Cole Porter’s backstage musical, “Kiss Me, Kate” maybe familiar material to those who remember the 1980s London revival, or perhaps the 1953 film (the first film musical with stereo sound and colour) starring Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel. It also comes across the Atlantic with more than promising reviews. Hopes were therefore high for a much needed hit amongst a batch of closing notices, and this production never fails to provide the audience with good tunes, plenty of humour and excellent dancing.
The four imported American leads are particularly impressive, especially Nancy Anderson, who’s rendition of “Always True To You” brings the house down with her shobizzy pizzazz. The supporting cast also fare very well the dancing in numbers such as “Too Darn Hot” makes just feel too darn hot thanks to Kathleen Marshall’s energetic (if slightly twee) choreography.
Jack Chissick and Teddy Kempner form a nice comic gangster duo for the song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” which feels almost like a pantomimic interlude, and their presence elsewhere in the show is always welcome.
If I may grumble a bit: designing “Kiss Me, Kate” must not be an easy task, but Robin Wagner hardly seems to have been inspired when creating his functional but unattractive card board cut out sets (not just for the Shrew performance might I add). My strong suggestion is that you go in without high hopes of intellectual stimulation, since while Sam and Bella Spewack’s book is clever in the parallels it draws between “The Shrew” and the cast of the show, I found the evening to turn out to merely be mindless fun.
Minor quibbles aside, Kiss Me, Kate is a musical which should delight most people intending to go out and smile non stop for a few hours.