Kiss Me Kate
It is a great pleasure to review Knox’s production of Kiss Me Kate, one of the most famous adaptations of Shakespeare for the musical stage, which focuses on a theatre company putting on a musical version of The Taming of The Shrew. The plot centres on the relationship between director/leading man Fred Graham (Alexander Landsberry) and his ex-wife/leading lady Lilli Vanessi (Emma Bradley) who play Petruchio and Katherine. Throw in an impish second actress Lois Lane (Imogen Howe), her gambling-addicted partner Bill Calhoun (Samuel Suleyman) and a couple of gangsters, and The Shrew’s opening night has dramas, both onstage and off. A total delight from start to finish, this witty show within a show, directed by the inspired Warren Fisher, is bright and splashy and boasts terrific performances, songs, dancing, and costumes.
What caught my eyes and ears after ‘Another Op'nin', Another Show’ was how well the cast switched seamlessly between Shakespearean dialogue and modern day English, a task some professional actors find challenging. Kiss Me Kate is one of the most difficult musicals to act because two roles need to be revealed simultaneously. The actors who let their backstage personas shine during The Taming of the Shrew have to do that convincingly. That is why Landsberry and Bradley deserve special praise, for their brilliant passion, drive, authenticity and singing voices they bring to the show. The triple gifts, singing, acting, and dancing can be particularly challenging especially for students juggling schoolwork as well!
One of my personal highlights was Henry Forsaith-Breese and Patrick Adams’ priceless performance of "Brush Up Your Shakespeare". Either one of the gangster dynamic duo could stand alone, but when both personalities are added, alongside the dancing, the costume, the music and the lyrics, you have a real winner. I still find myself humming the melody during class! Two other favourites were "Always True to You in My Fashion" sung beautifully by Imogen Howe, and the final “Kiss Me Kate”, which took advantage of a crafty transformable stage to allow each musical number to have its individual palette of vibrant colours, mixed with animated dancers and singers. The ability to run without scene changes and blackouts allowed the production to flow nicely.
What I appreciate about Kiss Me Kate is that a 1948 production still has something to say today. The unpopular attitudes towards women shown by The General and Petruchio allow the audience to criticise their own society, 60 years after the first performance. This is where the power of the theatre comes from. It would be nice to think attitudes towards women have changed, the sad truth is the change is not universal.
For every great cast there is an equally great group of musicians, choreographers, vocalist coaches, and backstage crew who allow them to shine. Without their expertise in music, dance, singing, lighting, sound and staging, Kiss Me Kate would not have been as special and brilliant. The clever and sharp fourth wall breaks between the performers and Mr. Brice, judging by the laughter, went down well with the audience. I have heard many cast members praise the infinite time and effort put into this great and rewarding production, with special mention to Charles Hambling, Warren Fisher, James Brice, Kerry Woods, and Karen Bruce. Kiss Me Kate was yet another great example of KAPA’s ability to put on a great show for us all to enjoy.